A brilliant short training video which can be aimed at so many areas of an organisation. Watch it with a view to working out what happens when you embrace creativity. What are the benefits, what are the compromises and what can you preserve? Enjoy!
There is only one real reason for your Innovation programmes to fail and that is the fact that you have taken no action at all! I’m sure, however, that is not what you want to hear and you will be shouting ‘not true’ at you computer screen. One of the components of any such programme is learning, so that even if you don’t hit the targets you set for yourself you will collect some knowledge on the way and thus not ‘fail’. The only way you can fail, therefore, is by not doing anything thus not making any progress and not learning anything.
If you have read much literature on the topic of Change Management then inaction will be a recurring theme. Many Managers mistake discussion, planning and specification for action thus they believe that an initiative may be underway when it is not. When asked what is happening they will tell you that the Innovation Task Force is meeting regularly and soon they will have objectives and a plan. Great in the early stages but you should ask the question ‘Have you actually done anything?’. In many cases the answer will be no. So no surprise that your initiative will be flagged as failing when it never actually started. To Innovate you must DO SOMETHING.
Readers will I’m sure like a few pointers as to why they have not made the progress they anticipated when they have taken action, so here are some potential reasons. Not all will apply to you but use them as a checklist:
- Employees do not know about your initiative – check communications
- Employees do not care about your initiative – check motivation and morale as well as management sponsorship
- Poor performance – did you identify any areas for training and development?
- Nothing is happening – have you officially kicked things off, have you changed what YOU do? Are others sabotaging your efforts?
- It all seems like hard work – do you have a team in place to help?
There are four broad categories of people to address when kicking off your innovation programme:
- Enthusiasts – no problem here, welcome them with open arms
- Disbelievers – ‘no that will never happen’, simply ‘do’ and conquer
- The Angry – ‘over my dead body’ hard work (see below)
- The Followers – ‘well if its going ahead I might as well tag along’, welcome these people also.
It is only the Angry (or Awkward) who pose a problem. What you need to realise is that a 70:30 rule applies here. If you run your innovation programme in an appropriate manner (you can borrow from Change Management here) then you will have 70% of your employees onside. There things aren’t so bad are they? So just DO, and you can’t actually fail!
Most readers will be familiar with, or have heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling business book ‘The Tipping Point’. The author suggests that there is a point at which you need apply only a small effort to create an effect. This is rather like giving the final push to topple a large boulder or tipping a finely balanced set of scales. If only we could find this point, we could all save ourselves time and effort.
Once the tipping point is found then we, and our businesses will be beating the competition and lining our pockets with untold riches, right? Is there anything to stop us? Well, quite a lot actually. Take the simple case of sitting down on a chair. You see the chair, walk round to the front and then sit down. Did you check that the chair was still there or that it did not have a wobbly leg. Most of the time nothing will happen but what happens in the 1 in 100 or 1 in 1000 cases when a practical joker has removed the chair?
This is a somewhat simplified example but neatly illustrates the point that we must keep our wits about us at all times. Having created a strategy for the future we want it to succeed but how many of us do not keep watch? What is it exactly that we are watching for? This is where we come to The Slipping Point. If you were driving up a slippery slope or along an icy road it would be the place where you lost grip, where your forward momentum slowed, and where things just did not go as planned. What can be done about this?
- Ensure Management are ‘Hands Ready’ i.e. they are aware of what is going on but are not micro-managing or too eager to take control. This provides space to see the bigger picture.
- Do your employees work in teams? The more they do this, the more support they provide, the more knowledge is shared and the more flexible they are when confronted with challenges.
- Is there a desire to win or are you all there to pick up your pay cheques?
- Even if you have a desire to win, do you know how to win?
- Keep an eye on the external environment, competitors, customers and any other factors that could affect the economic landscape.
- Foster as many external relationships as you can. These provide information and can also be leveraged in times of need.
- Promote the right culture. Transparency and morale are often used but infrequently heeded. Lead by example and gain trust and you will be in good shape.
- Promote the concept of stretch, an environment in which your employees and management alike are challenged and allowed to learn.
- Get the best from your staff. This extends from what management actually ‘do’ to staff to encourage and motivate them as well as reward systems.
Pay attention to the above and you have a very good chance of executing that carefully crafted strategy and avoiding The Slipping Point.