Agile innovation Change & innovation Innovation barriers Innovation in Europe Vision & strategy

Innovation is change (1)

Fundaments to change

Innovation is change. Like any change, requires effort, generates resistance and needs vision and leadership. In addition, in many cases, an increase in performance is required, that means being able to generate simultaneously: ‘innovation and performance in harmony’.

Changing to innovate

To innovate, change is required in the culture, in the organization, in the strategy and in the
way of working.  On the other hand, the current differential of change, with respect to earlier times, is the multiplicity and the speed, which we can call “accelerated change”. An accelerated change is one in which the rate of change increases and becomes superior to the learning capacity of people and organizations.

I am convinced that organizations, and as such companies, behave and evolve as open systems. An open system is anyone who interacts and communicates with the social environment.

Which, as a first consequence, is that to survive and develop they must adapt continuously. In fact, in a social changing environment, they will never be fully adapted.

The human being is an open biological system, innovative in nature since, in the course of evolution, it has continually adapted to changes in the environment.

Human history is the story of all our innovations, from the smallest to the few that are fundamental milestones and that have drastically changed our way of living. We could then distinguish between radical or incremental innovations.

For this reason, organizations, such as open systems formed by people, are adaptive and innovative in nature.

Change and innovation, radical or incremental, are normal things, nothing is extraordinary in the fact of adapting. It is a necessary condition for survival in all living beings and in open systems. [1]

Why then in some organizations and companies it’s so difficult to innovate? Or does it cost a lot more in some ones than in others? And why in certain areas, countries or social environments, innovation is not only unusual, but it’s scarce, rare and difficult?

Barriers to change are barriers to innovation

One explanation is that in most companies, organizations, territories or societies, over time, barriers to innovation have been erected and that these barriers become a real inhibitor to the natural tendency to innovate.

In addition, innovation implies a change and changes generate reactions. Despite the normality of adaptation and change, it has detractors and some strategies of resistance. Therefore, some people and organizations generate resistance to change and therefore to innovation.

Examples:

  • If it works fine, don’t touch it … (popular)
  • Let them to invent …! (Miguel de Unamuno)
  • Why allocate resources to innovate if we do well?
  • Does change ensure success? Who demonstrates the effectiveness of the new?

These are a reasonable or understandable strategy, the most economical if things go reasonably well. Hence it looks like to initiate a change we must be on a “burning platform”. In addition, there is also a tendency to hyper-value what you have, as a reactive factor to the novelty.

Disregarding the reasons or reasonableness of resistance to change, this creates barriers to innovation, which accumulate slowly and create a culture in the company or organization that makes innovation a difficult project.

There is another reason: innovation is oriented to the future, and therefore carries more risk than the immediate. In companies, the processes are usually geared towards performance and this is usually measured in the short term, so that their ‘operational’ processes are focused on immediate performance.

In the allocation of resources, always limited, innovation in some way competes with the operational processes, therefore creating a tension of priorities. Do we prioritize immediate or future performance? This dialectic is observed to a greater or lesser extent in all organizations, and becomes easy to distinguish clearly where is a marked orientation in one or another direction.

As a consequence, where innovation is rare, complicated or expensive and even non-existent, it is because there are barriers. In these organizations, focus is concentrated on immediate performance, rather than in future.

We will have to recognize these barriers and resistance to change if we really want to innovate. Know their origin and carry out action plans to eliminate them. Not doing so, would be to spend a lot of energy, resources and costs to get something that is actually not wanted. And usually with little success, very costly, which would justify greater barriers and resistance in the future, due to failures and bad experiences.

In a broader circle, organizations and companies are living in a social system or environment, and such as an open system, are influenced by this environment. If the environment is not conducive to innovation, with many barriers to change, the difficulties increase because they are not only in the interior, but also externally, in social environment or territory.

Since these barriers probably cannot be eliminated by them, they probably should try to, without isolating themselves, create a certain ‘sanitary cord’, their own culture and differentiation, to prevent their people from contamination.  It is quite difficult, reason why many companies decide to settle their resources and/or innovation teams, in countries or social environments more open and adapted to it.

On the other hand, there are many opinions and authors who place permanent innovation and change as imperative necessity, otherwise there is no future.

“The probability that in the future or in the medium-term things will remain the same as now is exactly zero” [2]

Therefore, we will have to decide how to place ourselves in the future and recognize that things are going to change, we need innovation to adapt and progress.

Models of change management

Change management models in fact are similar. Practice is what leads to success. We use four models:

  1. Michael Doyle,
  2. Managed Change Model,
  3. John P. Kotter
  4. Practical (and own) implementation methodology.

We will see them at the next post.

In any case, a process of change needs: Leadership, Team, Practice, Training and Accompaniment. It is also convenient to take into account a few things:

  1. A change begins with your own identification. It is therefore convenient to materialize each type of change in a specific project. Like any project, with its ultimate goal, its organization and responsible, its budget, its start and end dates and its intermediate milestones.
  2. It is not advisable to generalize, a change that seeks to cover several objectives at the same time, or reach unclear places. It would be better to define several projects.
  3. It is advisable to avoid changes in “small doses” or changes over long periods of time. We could increase the mistrust of all: subjects and actors of the change, workers and managers, individuals and teams. Therefore, it is best to take important steps in the short term, but always with the clear purpose, the defined path and intermediate goals as immediate goals. And above all, with detailed information and communication, and much of the day, both where we are now, as well as what is the next step, and what we intend to do next.

[1] Samuel Husenman. El cambio y la mejora como estrategias adaptativas.
[2] John P. Kotter. The Heart of Change

See: Change, crisis…innovation (2012)

Author

Francesc Guell is the owner of this site. He was CEO and director of international companies in specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The last 12 years was associated with international consulting groups, providing advice and support to businesses on topics such as innovation and agile innovation processes, operational excellence, knowledge management, change management, strategy and integrated business management. Currently creates and presents courses and workshops on these topics. He graduated as a chemical engineer, postgraduate from ESADE Business School in Business Administration and Master in Knowledge Management. He participated in numerous programs, seminars and ESADE, IESE, EADA, APD and MCE (Management Centre Europe). He is author of articles, presentations and courses on innovation in strategic management, integrated business models, knowledge management, performance measurement, change management and excellence in business processes. See more in: Professional Profile