Remember Tara from our previous post? Among other challenges, she was chasing a vision and leading her team... right out the door! She cared deeply about her people but the constant change was severely depleting engagement and productivity. The desire was to promote innovation, but the internal reality was unremitting "experimentation."
When Change Becomes Harmful
Constant change, advancing under the banner of "innovation," is often unfocused, uninspired and unsuccessful. A study by Kotter International revealed 70% of transformation efforts fail. 70%! Think about the enormity of what is behind that percentage: thought-energy, emotion, time investment and extraordinary economic loss.
What may be intended as a culture of innovation, becomes a pretext for chronic experimentation. I have worked with teams whose leaders conditioned them to believe what they heard today guaranteed not what they could expect tomorrow. Talk about a culture death knell. Leadership will (knowingly or unknowingly) leverage its people, departments and systems to test hypotheses organization-wide. This can be especially true with organizations where "change" is highly valued... if not an idol.
Organizationally, poor behaviors chase downstream poor behaviors. If a new idea is launched and a leader habitually intimates the critical necessity of follow-through, but just as rapidly aborts a poorly planned design, the result is lack of engagement, disillusionment and attrition.
How We Can Innovate Wisely
As servant leaders we're called to steward people as well as resources. Rather than a "ready, fire, aim" approach, leaders can:
- Develop smart, creative and systematic improvements by promoting creativity and allowing open discussion and debate
- Pressure test ideas and theories in small group organisms
- Lead with "the why" when implementing change and develop a collaborative approach
- Thread your idea-makers and courageous thinkers into the process
In other words, innovate wisely.
Click bait titles like, “Three Steps to Better Innovation,” are commonplace and often at the heart of trendy articles and books. However, true innovation requires working through complexities and depends on locating a unique constellation of internal and external dynamics within a particular context. More importantly, innovation is a team sport and will thrive in organizations where trust and vulnerability are encouraged.
One caution: Don't hear in these words that change is negative. Christ himself was the greatest change agent of all time. He promoted new and provocative thinking while pushing back on entrenched notions.
Innovate wisely. Let us help.
Jack Kemp is former military, an attorney, business leader, non-profit executive, organizational coach, connector and collaborator. He presently serves as Managing Principal for PrimAscend, LLC, and previously as Divisional President of a large US non-profit. He has also served on church leadership, for-profit and non-profit advisory boards and committees. Jack’s degrees include a B.S. and J.D., and he has experience in organizational assessment, strategic planning, leadership coaching, risk mitigation and crisis management.