Predicting The Future

How healthy is your organisation going to be this year? Will it be growing or will it struggle to survive? The future is uncertain; that’s good for bookmakers and fortune-tellers, but not good if you are trying to plan for the future.

Crystal BallIn my experience, all organisations regularly review their “key numbers”, normally revenue and cost, however, those numbers are in the past, there’s no ability to change what’s happened (legally). What will those numbers be for this month? At best it is intelligent guessing, i.e., forecasting.

Managing your business by your past performance is like driving a car by only looking in the rear-view mirror. You can see what’s happened, but you can only guess what is going to happen, and those guesses are based on what the road looked like previously as you can’t see what’s coming up. The only action left is to hope you guess right and fix the damage when you don’t.

But you can begin to predict the future health of your organisation; there is a way to see into the future. And you already have this capability in your organisation; let me explain…

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Fighting Organisational Policy

Change is hard as we humans don’t like change. However, in organisations, there is another reason why change is so hard, and it’s called Policy.

policyLet me give you an example of Policy in action. I was recently working with a client who was running an idea challenge in their company. The CEO and the board were sponsoring the challenge and expecting great things. To launch the challenge, the CEO emailed every employee to ask them to get involved by submitting their ideas as they ideas were needed urgently. Good so far.

However, part way through the challenge, they wanted to remind people to get involved to maximise the number of participants. The obvious solution was to send out some reminder emails.

Sounds reasonable, but apparently it wasn’t. This action was blocked because the internal communications department thought that too many emails had been sent, and further emails would break their corporate email policy.

Even through the challenge had the support of the board; their email policy had stopped the much-needed communication. Maintaining policy was more important than involving staff in a board-supported innovation initiative.

Great, employees got less emails, but hang on, less people got involved in the challenge. Which will drive the organisation forward, less emails, or ideas? It’s not a hard question…

My wise friend, Alan G Robinson, recently tweeted:

Policies aren’t created for fun, but are created to solve an issue or stop a potential issue occurring. It’s all very sensible, until those very policies stop the organisation moving forward into new things that will keep the organisation relevant, current and most importantly, solvent.
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The Battle Between Innovation and Managers

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?

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.

Really stuck.

Middle managers become the blockers. They are not intentional blockers, but unconsciously (mostly), they get their team to focus on the current deliverables, prioritising the now, because that’s what they get “kicked on” if it doesn’t get done. As a result, their team begins to learn that although innovation is a goal of the organisation, it’s either for another team or is done in their own time.
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Money: Bad For Ideas

Money motivates. People tend to like it and usually want more of it. However, is it helpful in encouraging and getting innovation?money

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.
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On The Road To Innovation Maturity

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.

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The Kotter Model: 8-Step Process Ensures Successful Change

Dr John Kotter

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.
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Disruptive Leadership

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.”

leadershipI 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!

Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

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