In Part 1, I posited that innovation is something completely new or different being introduced that changes the marketplace — it’s one and done. Unfortunately, the terminology has been used for years, even when it’s not truly innovation, at least according to my definition. And it’s become part of the confusing word salad littering our business ether: transformation, continuous improvement, lean thinking and reinvention.
One can now see how it all quickly became that word salad — confusing and potentially leading to effort failures.
The fact is, most of us will never achieve real innovation in our businesses, but we can still reinvent ourselves — as frequently as every two to three years — to be successful and thrive in today’s world of uncertainty.
However, perhaps there is an even more serious issue. Recent data from the Reinvention Academy (www.learn2reinvent.com) indicates that people, teams, bosses and colleagues are fatigued and absolutely exhausted from the endless marathon of changes and new initiatives swirling around us. They simply can’t push forward anymore.
We must address it. We need an action plan to manage the burnout and infuse fresh and positive energy into our teams, organizations and even our own lives.
Defining the Six Keys to Change
So, as I said in Part 1, change sucks. It requires one to step into the unknown, but irrelevance is worse. Reinvention is not one-and-done. I suggest that successful change leading to real innovation — through reinvention — requires six steps:
Strategy. This is a “future competitive advantage.” Specifically, what will people (customers) want and need in the future? It’s all about anticipation, a key to real innovation. Expectations constantly change and grow as demographic, technological and other changes “rewire” needs. What will the competitive set look like in the future?
Often the biggest opportunities, and threats, to any company come from outside its category. Look at what happened to the auto industry. Tesla was focused on software and electric, Uber on replacing the car. Gillette and Schick found they had no advantage over Dollar Shave Club, which used YouTube and social media for awareness and sampling. Meanwhile young men were no longer fixated on being clean-shaven — a trend each company chose to ignore.
Not moving to tomorrow to protect today was really costly.
Acquisition of new skills. This is a need to acquire people, channels or technologies to meet new needs and fend off competitive threats. Too many companies waste money and time trying to cover their vulnerabilities to next-generation skills — hauling out some in-house assemblage to which they apply some project name and attempt to roll it out.
Your customers are sophisticated enough to know when you are still learning with training wheels — a showing that does not demonstrate confidence or signal real commitment. Do it right by bringing in top-notch people where needed, or buy other companies that bring credibility and skills.
Funding yesterday at the cost of tomorrow is like starving one’s children so one can purchase flowers for an ancestor’s resting place.
New organizational design. Most organizations are designed for yesterday or today, not tomorrow. Again, a perfect example of the future does not fit the containers of the past.
A new strategy requires new approaches to how a company is organized. This is not easy, often anguishing — but you don’t want to dilute all the strategic thinking either!
To drive reorganization, stay focused on maximizing customer benefits, ensure friction-free collaboration that minimizes duplication, and align decision-making with the right incentives.
Buy-in. Everything is easy until people get in the way, or as Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Too many companies, after the first three steps, believe their work is done and bring out the balloons and posters!
Everything is great, it’s easy — until people get in the way.
Telling people that change is good, or sloganeering to goad them into some cult-like devotion, rarely works and will likely fail even after threats of “daily floggings will continue until the morale increases.”
Because if there is nothing in it for them, people will find ways to outmaneuver management.
If one wants an organization or team to grow and change, you will need to deliver answers to three questions:
Why are the recommended changes good for them?
How can it help them grow?
How do these changes impact their compensation?
Aligned incentives. If you want to know if a company’s strategy will work, ask to see its incentive programs.
Change only happens when seismic shifts in compensation and power happen because people will do what they are rewarded for doing — not what some “change agent” or “Vision 20XX” slogan encourages them to do.
It’s hard enough to change and stupid to go through the pain of change when one is rewarded to stay the same!
Education and training. In companies, the shadow between where they are and where they want to be is known as a lack of skills or know-how.
If you want people to behave differently, think differently, work differently and incentivize them to do so, companies also must provide ways for them to learn and develop the new skills and capabilities that will be needed. This usually comes in the form of self-serve, guided and enabled training.
Learning and development agendas require a significant commitment. The single biggest return on investment will be the ability to upgrade the mental and emotional operating skills of a company’s talent. Upgrading skills is more cost-effective, humane and culturally positive than laying off people and bringing in new teams.
No company can grow unless its people grow. The day one stops learning, one stops growing.
Feel free to share your feedback!