by Bill Dann, Founder, Professional Growth Systems

Challenges in today’s business environment often involve dealing with change. What isn’t widely known is that only about 33 percent of change initiatives are successful. This series of articles lays out the vital points of successful change implementation — points that I can vouch for after nearly 30 years of advising organizations of all sizes. This seventh article in the series is about the keys to – and the importance of – innovation.

The Keys to Innovation

There are likely a lot of reasons that only one-third of change efforts succeed. These are probably the two most significant:

  • They aim too low. That is, they seek only incremental improvement, rather than real innovation. By real innovation, I mean the dictionary definition: the act of introducing something new or for the first time.
  • Management decides it’s not worth it. Because change can be costly — in terms of staff time, consultants, technology investment, and so forth, management often loses patience and drops the project when the improvements don’t seem to warrant the investment and disruptions involved.

And, Think About the Competition

If you’re busy making incremental changes, be aware that there is an unknown competitor out there, somewhere, who is innovating. In his best-seller, Leading the Revolution, Gary Hamel says: “Somewhere out there is a bullet with your company’s name on it. Somewhere out there is a competitor, unborn & unknown, that will render your strategy obsolete. You can’t dodge the bullet–you’re going to have to shoot first. You’re going to have to out-innovate the innovators.”.

Overcoming the Resistance to Change: A Real Challenge

As any number of experts, authors, and others have noted, we all have an inherent resistance to change. Thus, if we rely on those doing the work to design the change (as we suggest in article #4 in this series), how can we get them to overcome this resistance and truly innovate?

Our experience consistently has been that, if a group has a common purpose and has followed the other steps described in this series, it will find the solution.

How Do You Encourage Innovation?

Most people are more stuck in their ways than they think. Here are some of the things we do during Process Advantage® to break them out of the old, and encourage them to be truly innovative.

  • We introduce an exercise (or exercises) that: Makes it clear to participants just how stuck they can be in the current ways of doing things; how they might invent reasons for why new approaches can’t work; how they might not even hear new ideas.
  • We brainstorm innovative strategies.
  • We commit to a new performance standard for the target process.
  • We design the new process to meet the standard.

Think About These Things, Too

From our experience, I can also recommend the following:

  • Do this work outside of the workplace. New environments stimulate new thinking. The investment in a high-quality venue communicates to teams that they and their work are important.
  • Mix up existing teams. Introduce “wild ducks” or fresh viewpoints to stimulate new thought.
  • Sound workshop design and outside facilitation all contribute to getting “outside the box”. Again, changing the existing dynamics and team culture is essential to creating something truly new.
PGS approach works

Why Does the PGS’ Process Advantage® Work?

This approach has been extremely successful for our clients. I’m not certain of all the reasons it has worked, but we, at PGS, theorize that these three reasons are involved:

  • Teams of those people who actually do the work have the most to gain from a more productive future of satisfied customers.
  • Management is often the most wedded to the existing way of doing things, even though it might seem to seek innovation.
  • The less experience and status achieved from existing methods, the greater the ability to get out of your own way and truly innovate. That’s why the people working in the process – rather than those who designed it – often make the better innovators.

Minimize Your Risk With an E-mail

If you would like a free consultation on whether you have the ingredients in place to achieve true innovation in an upcoming process, simply contact us.

The rest of the story

To read the rest of the articles in this series on change click on any of the links below:

Change 1: Putting Customer Data to Work

Change 2: The Importance of Selling the Big “Why”

Change 3: Define the Scope, Understand the Potential and Assess the Readiness

Change 4: Let Those Who Do the Work, Design the Work

Change 5: Make Sure Everybody Wins

Change 6: Secure and Maintain Stakeholder Support

Change 8: The Importance of Data on Existing Performance

Change 9: Clarify Problems Before Innovating

Change 10: Finding Breakthrough Strategies

Change 11: Grabbing the Low Hanging Fruit

Change 12: Sound Implementation Planning

Change 13: The Human Side of Change

Change 14: Management Support of Change