Innovation

by Cathy Dunn and Phil Allcock

Some blockages and some responses.

One of the reasons that people don’t innovate is that it can be challenging and they fear failure. It is possible, however, to anticipate and overcome those challenges by doing some relatively straightforward things.

Challenges Responses
‘It won’t work.’ Remember the notion of dimostrazione – keep trying; persistence pays off.
Turn the conversation around to focus on the consequences of not trying.
‘Other people won’t buy in to my idea.’ If you believe in what you’ve developed, keep talking about it; try it in small ways. You’ve got to find ways of making your idea seem useful, acceptable and possible to the people whose support you’ll need to make it work.
‘It’ll cost too much to change our systems.’ Make the benefits as clear as you can.
Again, shift the focus to the cost of not doing it.
‘I’m scared to be different.’ Learn to embrace ambiguity by finding the small steps you can take to start along the path.
Read Feel the fear and do it anyway! (Jeffers 1988).
‘They don’t understand my idea.’ Be clear about the benefits; paint a picture of what it will be like when your idea is up and running.
‘I’ve run out of energy.’ Find ways of re-engaging and energising yourself – through meditation; treating yourself to something you like to do; reading a book; cooking a gourmet meal; doing anything other than work on your idea.
Also remind yourself why you got excited about the project in the first place.
‘We never do that here.’ Think about how you can lobby for your idea – is there someone you know who has influence within the organisation and will listen to you?
‘We tried that before...’ Take this statement, acknowledge it and then use it. Have a conversation around questions such as ‘What did you do last time?’ ‘Is this really the same?’ ‘Is the situation still the same as before? What exactly didn’t work – the whole thing or just some specific things?’ and ‘If we were able to get around those specific issues, do you think we could make it work?’
Can you try your idea out as a pilot ‘just to see if it will work’?
‘Is it an idea that is ahead of its time?’ If you think that the idea has value now, you might need to give more thought to how you convince other people of this.
Who’s telling you this?
Talk to corporate planners, or whoever looks into and plans for the future in your organisation. Does your idea fit with their idea of the way the organisation should be going?
If it doesn’t, think again, but if it does, try to identify scenarios in which the idea might become useful and trial it there.
‘People won’t listen to me.’

One of the many difficulties encountered when a new idea comes along is how to get it heard and recognised. This often comes back to how to influence the ‘system’. One way of approaching this could be to draw up a list of the stakeholders in the issue and identify people who may be open to an approach or may find time to listen to your ideas. Sometimes this is easier to do as a diagram. The distance from the centre relates to your perception of the strength of the relationship (in other words, close or distant) and the shape of the symbol relates to your view of the type of relationship, as described below. Drawing such a map of the relationships involved in lobbying your idea may give you some clues about the best way to approach the ’targets’.

As well as plotting supporters, you can also plot the position of the people you suspect might block the idea and use it to track the progress you think you’re making with them.
People think that innovation is a bad thing... If innovation is a genuine response to a genuine need, and it is followed through to the point either where it is acknowledged to have made a positive difference, or it is not working and should therefore be abandoned, then innovation is a good thing. Where it can become counter-productive is when things are changed just for the sake of doing something new, or when attempts to innovate are consistently abandoned, in favour of the newest bright shiny new thing. People soon become cynical about innovation in organisations that suffer from ‘initiativitus’.
‘Does it mean I have to think of something entirely new/original?’ No, innovation does not necessarily mean thinking of something completely new and different; more often it is the application of something from one field to a different arena – see Connessione.