Innovation is the why, change is the how

There is a lot of talk about being more agile, responsive, lean, etc. These are all very worthwhile approaches. They all very often take a view on different ways of dealing with change starting with the need for change.

The central theme to all of the above is very often that the pace of change is accelerating. We live in exponential times and it becomes an imperative to bake into the organisation the capability to master change. The ability to turn on a dime when the need arises. Very often it is in response to competitive activity and that is increasingly coming from nimble startups disrupting an industry.

Then we need to take into consideration the very substantial industry that exists around managing change in its own right. The purpose of many organisations is purely to facilitate the management of change for other organisations. A substantial part of many organisations is also geared towards offering professional services around managing change.

Amongst the latter organisations, often ones that sell groundbreaking technologies, the focus is frequently geared towards helping organisations deal with the implementation and adoption of the technologies themselves. More fundamentally is the need to change the way you work or think about the way you have been working – a mindset shift in other words. This requires thinking about behaviours and processes, not just the technology. All hard nuts to crack.

What many often miss though, is the real reason for the change itself, the why if you will. All are busy running around changing or trying to change others. Little is understood about the purpose.

The reason the pace of change is accelerating is very often because new innovations are driving users to change their behaviours. This very often forces organisations to change the way they have to deal with these users – customers and/or employees alike.

Some times, in the best cases, the change is brought about by an innovation the organisation itself has come up with. At worst it has been disrupted by another. This is the worst change to manage because it is based on a crises but often it is essential, survival is at stake.

At the intended heart of all innovation, whether disruptive or incremental, is progress. Something that is better than what came before. If you get it right, it is a positive force for good. With progress often comes the need to change.

Why many often put the cart before the horse

Innovation is hard. Anything worthwhile takes time unless you are very lucky and few are. It’s far easier to change something. Many times we do for the sake of it. Just by taking a different tack this provides the appearance of action and we often fool ourselves into believing it is groundbreaking.

As human beings we are also a rather fickle lot. We get bored very easily. Especially with an abundance of digital distractions, it is easy to let ourselves get carried away by the shiny new thing. A new trend here, a new gadget there. Thats all we sometimes need to start following a new piper, but as with the rats, it often ends in a damp squibb.

Organisations are no less susceptible to the vagaries of our time. Many organisations role out one change initiative after another. Many of those initiatives fail – the statistics say that on average over 80% of change initiatives fail. The initiatives are often purported to be in the name of innovation but mostly they are fruitless attempts to fend of another organisations innovation.

How to change the game

Here are some ways to make sure that the change you are making is in pursuit of something truly groundbreaking:

  • Spend a lot of time thinking about the objective of the change effort, this will easily tell you if the reason you are carrying out the change is in pursuit of innovation or just for changes sake
  • Build change capability into your organisation, the ability to very quickly respond to new opportunities in the marketplace – that way you are not at the mercy of change programs
  • Put innovation at the heart of your organisations modus operandi, that means very individual in it is thinking about coming up with new innovations and they are empowered to act on it

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