On the Brink of Innovation
Written by Mariateresa Romeo
Is resistance to change the true enemy of innovation?
Although the benefits of a new solution are self-evident and innovation appeals to many, why only a few leaders are capable of transforming a new idea into reality and generating consensus around it?
“We have always done it this way” is the most dangerous phrase in our language. – Grace Hopper
A few weeks ago, I was asked to do a weekly educational moment at my BNI Chapter, focusing the intervention on one of the BNI core values. I decided to talk about Tradition + Innovation, one of my most intriguing topics. Like many other organizational cultures, BNI considers tradition and innovation as complementary values. On the one hand, we must lay the foundation of our business on who we are and where we come from; on the other hand, we need to be open to novelties and challenge ourselves to stay current and grow personally and professionally.
I fully share this view, but I must admit that it is easier said than done.
Many professionals struggle with self-sabotage and fear to change. They are concerned that clients and business partners might not understand and appreciate the novelties that they want to bring.
Similarly, leaders in the corporate world must work hard to instill a culture of innovation. Internal communication is full of ideas and powerful messages to enable employees at any organizational level to think outside the box, embrace new technologies, and change their ways of working. However, these messages remain stuck in plans and strategy presentations and seldom generate new effective behaviors.
Innovation is not a new idea or a brand-new product. It is a process of exploiting new ideas that often imply using new technologies; even before that, it is a mindset.
Innovation consists of constantly bringing two fundamental questions into our daily routine: “How can we do our job better?” (For example, increase efficiency or effectiveness of our activities) and “How can we serve our clients better?” (Which means deeply understand, anticipate, and fulfill their needs).
Developing this mindset leads us to approach our work with curiosity and continuously explore opportunities for improvement.
We can train ourselves by seeing any problems or difficulties we encounter, although complex and sometimes frustrating, as an opportunity to challenge our ideas and our way of working. Through this process, we can change the environment in which we operate, our activities, skills, and capabilities. Developing new ideas can also make us change our behaviors and opinions.
How can we overcome the resistance to change?
Sometimes working with an open and curious mind is not that easy. We find ourselves incapable of constantly maintaining this attitude over time; we know this is the right approach, but we do not follow it or struggle to convince others to ride the waves of change.
Resistance to change is not just about feeling comfortable with our traditions, which are consolidated practices and habits, but also our self-image as professionals and the image of ourselves we show to others. It often involves our values and purpose. When we perceive a new idea is against our values, we tend to express our opposition by criticizing the change or intentionally hindering it.
Even if we want to promote the change but don’t think it is a priority for ourselves or the organization now, we might not express opposition to it. Still, we will undoubtedly tend to ignore it or never fully embrace it.
For innovation to happen, it must be aligned and included in our hierarchy of values at personal and organizational levels. So, we must be passionate about it.
You have to be burning with an idea, problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you note passionate enough from the start, you will never stick it out – Steve Jobs
We need to operate from a position of integrity so that whatever change we decide to make or are asked to make will benefit us first because it reflects who we are and allow us to live our values.
Innovation is more than a growth driver
The most disruptive leaders are, in fact, those who are moved by the desire to transform companies, industries, and societies beyond generating profits and, of course, building their businesses. They see innovation not just as a driver to be competitive and keep their business alive. They explore opportunities to innovate their business because they want to do it, not because they must. They share their vision with others and inspire those around them to operate according to the same values.
In conclusion, if we are genuinely moved from the purpose of solving our customers’ problems and needs and bringing something new into everyone’s life, innovation will not just be an item on our agenda or a dilemma to solve. We will naturally embrace it and change what we do and how we do it by staying true to who we are.
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