Innovation initiatives have a habit of causing excitement and expectation; the organisation is trying something different and wanting to do new things. Senior management are anticipating the brand new shiny ideas, and front-line employees can’t wait to be rid of their daily frustrations. So what could go wrong?
Are they listening?
However, in all this excitement, there’s a group that is usually neglected in the engagement strategy – the middle managers. Often it’s assumed that these managers will support all the company initiatives. It’s their role to toe the line and make sure others do. They’ll buy in surely?
Actually, they don’t.
The role of a middle manager is to maintain the status quo and ensure that set targets are met and the organisational cogs keep turning and working as expected. They are not needed to pursue flights of fancy, a.k.a. ideas, they are employed to keep order and manage resources.
And then they and their team are asked to innovate. What’s in it for the manager? If they are measured on meeting their current objectives, innovation will be seen as a distraction to the “real work” with no guaranteed rewards at the end.
So instead of ideas flowing freely through the organisation and being implemented as quick as you can blink, the ideas get stuck.
Money motivates. People tend to like it and usually want more of it. However, is it helpful in encouraging and getting innovation?
I want ideas; I’ll pay for them. It’s almost crude in it’s approach. Nobody likes to think that they can be bought for a certain price. However, when it comes to innovation, it is often the default.
Let me lay my cards on the table here; I believe using money as a motivator can be immensely destructive!
Innovation is not invention; innovation is a team activity. Having an idea is one thing, but to make it better needs others to get involved. And to get it implemented, that takes more people. Innovation is about implementing ideas and to achieve it, you have to share, work with others and give credit. I have to let go of my idea as mine and mine alone, otherwise that is all it will remain, just an idea.
So to this team sport of innovation, we introduce an individual monetary reward. This begins to create an interesting dynamic. Where we needed collaboration, we have just forced someone to share his or her potential winnings. Who likes doing that? I’m happy to help you, but what’s my cut? Before the financial reward, there wasn’t a problem, but now things have just got complicated.
Innovation in an organisation is not so much an activity; it’s more of a journey. However, you don’t get to the journey’s end of innovation, as by its very nature, it continuously creates new horizons and new peaks to reach.
Bringing Change, Driving Results
When you are on a journey, however, you want to know where you are and where you are going. It’s the same with the expedition of any innovation programme. It is difficult to know how you are doing and make comparisons, because most innovation programmes are new and different, and additionally, there is usually only one innovation programme in an organisation.
How can you tell if you are making headway in your innovation journey, or just heading very fast down a dead-end alley? How can you tell what you are doing well, and what needs to improve?
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you do the same thing over and over again, don’t be surprised that you always get the same results.”
And it’s quite accurate. One of the more common things I hear from our clients is that they want improved results in their innovation programmes. Yet, they don’t change the way their programme operates. Guess what — it’s not going to get better by hope alone! Often, changes aren’t made for one of two reasons: either the impact of a change isn’t known, or it’s unclear what aspects of the programme need to be changed in order to make a real difference. It is very risky to make changes without understanding the impact they may have.
How can you identify what needs to change, how to change it and be confident of the result? If you are not confident, it’s very unlikely that you will be able to convince your stakeholders to agree to the changes.
Dr John Kotter
Over 30 years ago, Dr John Kotter identified an eight-step model for ensuring successful change in an organisation that sticks. Today, this model is still as relevant as it was then.
Dr Kotter’s model formed the key tenets to the innovation program we created and ran. I wrote the eight steps in the inside cover of each notebook I used. Being both strategic and practical, the model really does work, and when anything went wrong, we found we had normally strayed from the model.
If you are leading or running a change, transformation or innovation program and you are not aware of the Kotter change model, I encourage you to become familiar with it: You will not regret it!
The eight steps are outlined here…
Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency
Help others see the need for change and they will be convinced of the importance of acting immediately.
If you want your leadership to be innovative, be very aware of what you are wishing for.
Here’s a quote Mike Myatt, a thought leader on leadership:
“Whenever I see leaders focus on maintenance over innovation, I see people who have unnecessarily drawn the line of impossibility in the sand. As I’ve said before, a leader’s job is to disrupt mediocrity – not embrace it, to challenge the norm – not embolden it, to weed out apathy – not reward it, and to dismantle bureaucracies – not build them. Nothing is impossible until you embrace it as such.”
I absolutely love this quote! Leaders must be those that envision those that they are leading. Leaders are not meant to be managers but to continually take steps forward.
Look out for the disruptive leader!
It’s important, right? It’s vital to the future, right?
So why is it so hard to get some leaders to hear what everyone is shouting from the rooftops? We all know the leaders that live for innovation, but they’re always working in a different company!
Why are leaders hesitant to commit to innovation? They seem know the theory and believe the reasons as to why they should be innovating, but just can’t seem to make that move and actually do it. I believe there are three types of leaders in relation to innovation activity:
- “Follow Me” – Leaders that are completely sold on the benefits of innovation, shout about it and make it happen.
- “Not Sure” – Leaders that know they should focus on innovation, but don’t have the faith or experienced the benefits of innovation yet.
- “Too Busy” – Those that think innovation is fluffy, a waste of space and a distraction from the job at hand.
I believe you can change the “Not Sure” and “Too Busy” leaders into “Follow Me” leaders. Here’s four areas that could be stopping them and how they can be overcome: Continue reading
It is at this time of year that people reminisce about the year that has been and the new one that is approaching. What we do personally, we also take into our work, and in both “worlds”, a change is only made when we take action on those thoughts.
And if you were wondering where the link to innovation was, here it comes…
…”change that makes a positive impact” is a pretty good definition of innovation.
So with the link to innovation made, how can you increase the chances of having a “most innovative year?” Here’s some ways that can help you and your organisation be brilliantly innovative.