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Innovation and Strategy

An old saying goes like this "Necessity is the mother of invention." While true, down through history one can note that often politics is a cohabitant in such scenarios. The kerosene lantern, the light bulb and the automobile all had a political element to their creation and practical application.

The same is true of many paper mill projects as well. While the best companies I have worked with do a good job of keeping the politics out and rigorous analysis in, at the other end of the spectrum are companies that seem to thrive on politics when it comes to making investment decisions.

We designate November "Innovation and Strategy Month" here at Paperitalo Publications. You will see articles on these subjects throughout our work this month. I almost said "this subject" in the last sentence, for I believe they must be linked. Innovation without a properly vetted strategy is a disaster.

Yet, I have seen mind boggling sums spent on innovation driven solely by politics. A tell-tale sign this is occurring is when some charismatic leader grabs hold of a project idea and just rams it through. "We don't have time to study this, we have to beat the competition." The road to bankruptcy court is littered with such statements.

If you are involved in a decision-making process on a large project and have any influence at all, make sure time is allotted to step back and make sure the approach is rational. Sometimes this involves bringing in outside help, but be careful that the outside help is not chosen for its favorable bias.

But not to worry, if you do make a bad decision, I'll be grateful. Many a bad project has ultimately stuffed the checking account in my consulting company with fat expert witness fees. To borrow and modify another old say, "Legal action is impossible until it is inevitable."

Jim Thompson is CEO of Paperitalo Publications.

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