Post # 7 in our series on change looks at innovation. How do you coax new strategies and approaches to work from skeptical staff? Read on for tips and tricks we have learned over the years.
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.
A word of caution. 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 post #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 have participants do during our change management tool, Process Advantage®, to break out of the old and encourage true innovation.
- Participate in an exercise or game 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, and how they might not even hear new ideas.
- Utilize tools and processes that stimulate the group in brainstorming innovative strategies.
- Determine and commit to a new performance standard for the target process.
- Design the new process that eliminates the rework and waste, while meeting the standard.
From our experience, I can also recommend the following to encourage innovation and sound redesign of systems:
- Do the 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 fresh viewpoints from staff in other parts of the organization 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.
- Utilize teams made up of people who actually do the work because they have the most to gain from a more productive future of satisfied customers.
- Be wary of enlisting too much help from management. They are often the most wedded to the existing way of doing things, because often they are the ones who designed it.
- Along those same lines, 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.
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The rest of the story
To read the rest of the articles in this series on change click on any of the links below: