As someone who has been trying to lead new technology and innovation cultural change for a few years now (with varying degrees of success), I have had a lot of interesting meetings which concluded with little action, until something went wrong/changed/got more difficult for those involved. It seems many people are enthusiastic about innovation until they have to change something. Change can be difficult, and I have seen many examples of when change has been actively resisted; I used the term “inertia of change” recently, and many people in the room nodded enthusiastically. It appears the brick wall of adversity to disruption and change is a common theme...
Random Fact: The fear of change or changing things is called Metathesiophobia; there’s a word for your next game of scrabble.......
Innovation is exciting, but change is difficult.
It is quite common across many industries I have worked with that change only takes place in a reactionary way, not a pre-emptive one. It can take budget cuts, staff cuts, HSE legislation changes, or even serious events and circumstances before anyone actually makes changes to how things are done. In my humble opinion, this is really when it is already too late. But, how to foster a healthy relationship with change amongst managers and decision makers who are already under a lot of pressure, and already might have too little to do with too small a budget?
“If you’re staying the same, you are actually going backwards”
In order to keep moving forwards on a reduced budget, one must change the traditional way of doing things. In smart companies one major tradition is; that traditions change! So, look at new ways of working: amalgamate, reduce, and remove some of the traditional work load. Allow flexible working, allow permanent part time positions, look at adoption of new technology, talk to industry leaders rather than try to do all the research yourself, look at spin-off companies and the new innovation tax breaks, check out how other people across your industry are shaking things up, and get ready for change.
Keep staff and management engaged, especially during times of change. I have heard stories of damage to morale and company culture being much more difficult to reverse than the change management people were trying to implement in the first place. Nip the office gossip in the bud; have open and honest conversations. Allow people to come along for the ride.
Write your innovation strategy as though it is a business strategy.
Indeed, business strategy should naturally be an innovation/change strategy, as all businesses are constantly looking for ways to maximise safety, maximise profitability, looking for the ‘Blue Ocean’*, and looking for ways to outmanoeuvre the competition. One way to do this is to assist your company’s natural innovators to communicate these messages clearly and coherently to the management that need to makes these decisions using language and terminology that fits the paradigm of business management.
There is a gap between academic training and business training. In technical firms many of the staff will have never even walked past a business school, let alone studied in one. The technical and innovation capability of staff may be top notch; but there needs to be a translator involved, someone who can speak both languages, someone who can be the social architect between these 2 worlds; the world of innovation and the world of business strategy.
Identify key staff and then train them as communicators.
You already have a wealth of existing skills and a number of ‘positive change agents’ working for your company. Some may have identified themselves by asking for training at annual performance reviews, others may be looking for an opportunity to present itself, either way a well organised training session can add value to the way your company works without huge expense nor risk.
“Diversity and Innovation are two sides of the same coin”
Encourage innovation from the moment you have the job description being written. Engage HR and management to look for those who are going to be able to offer a different point of view. Diversity really does provide an advantage, it has been common knowledge for a while now that more diverse businesses are more sustainable, more profitable, and more adaptable to market change. Darwinian theory of community behaviour applied to humans in business.
Use experts and specialists- they have done the hard yards already.
Paying fees for external consultants can actually save a lot of time, effort, and worry. Talking with those that have already gained many years’ experience in their field can save you the pit falls, share industry best practice, and guide your legal, risk, quality, and health and safety teams through the lessons already learned.
The good news for you is: at Elemental Strategy we are already well experienced in implementing and completing innovation based changes and new paradigms across many businesses. We have won national awards, and international recognition based on our proven skills in this area.
We have developed specific “Embracing Innovation” mentoring and learning workshops on techniques garnered from the most appropriate industry experience. We will be launching the new website in early 2016, options will include workshops, 1-2-1 training for your key staff, video-based learning, and bespoke programmes.
Get in touch for a 10 minute chat by sending us a message for more information on how our award winning team can help save you money, time, and effort whilst implementing the innovation agenda and embracing the #ideasboom.