“If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.”-General Eric Shinseki

In today’s ever changing climate,Innovation has become a new buzzword.  Many companies claim to want innovation, but few have created a culture that supports it. In fact, most organizations have fostered a culture that values following the status quo rather than taking risk and challenging the norm.  The Ken Blanchard Companies found that around 70% of all initiatives focused on change that companies try to implement actually fail.  

I would say this proves that most organizational cultures don’t support change and innovation.  If you are always fighting to keep things the same way, it becomes very difficult to develop creative ideas that will cause everything to change, thus “mindless efficiency” occurs. There are many steps to nurturing transformation and creating environments of innovation. Here are three to get you started:

Have a strong WHY?

Most people have heard of the importance of having a strong why and knowing your purpose. What we often neglect to discuss is the importance of making sure everyone in the organization understands the why, has a personal connection to the why, and that the why is constantly reinforced.  When people really believe that they exist to change the world, it is amazing the amount of ideas they come up with to do so.  Often leadership spends all day thinking about the why but it is rare to have an entire organization that thinks about it.

Focus on WHAT you do want

Even in times of crisis it is important to focus on what you actually do want. This is actually when you need the most innovative ideas, but it’s often when people resist risk, change, and creativity. I learned from a mentor, Lou Tice, to always think in ideals. Ask yourself how things would look and feel if it were ideal. This is not the time to worry about the how. Often what chokes out creativity is the burning need to answer the question, “How are we going to…?” If you can train your mind and your organization to focus on the ideal state and worry about the how later, you will be amazed at all of the ways you find, discover, and create.

Learn HOW to celebrate failure

I know this might sound crazy and goes completely against our conservative minds and a conservative culture, so that’s why it’s so important to do. Here’s a story: I once shared this strategy with a client and for several days my credibility was in question. The CEO knew his organization needed to become innovative to survive and thrive, but all of the company’s strategies to promote innovation had failed. They tried incentive programs, suggestion boxes, and an open mic during company meetings, but received very few bold ideas. I explained that culture trumps strategy every time, and the only way to really become a company of innovation was to shift the culture.

So I explained that from now on he would need to celebrate failure as much as success.  I realized that this concept was foreign to him so I offered a few simple steps for the next time someone stepped out of the box and didn’t make it. At the next company meeting: 

  • Share that the team took a chance and the reason why. Highlight the problem they were trying to solve.
  • Share the process. Make sure that you explain this wasn’t a frivolous idea, but
  • Share what was learned and will now be part of your knowledge wealth. Sometimes you find great information in what doesn’t work. Some products have actually been developed by failed attempts to create something else. Sometimes you will learn things about the process that can help you when moving forward.

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”            -Henry Ford

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