Thursday, 7 May 2015

Adapting to change can be your greatest asset

Image via iStock
by Marcus Powe PhD (Innovation), Entrepreneur in Residence, RMIT University
‘To be a successful innovator, companies must encourage disruptive processes within their businesses’

Over the last few years, new terms and phrases have been introduced into the language of enterprise. The result has seen added confusion of the fundamental terms of innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. Advisors, consultants and experts have embraced the new language and now business, government and educators are fluent. Some of my favourites include; creative innovation, applied entrepreneurship and deep insight. And the best is of course the smart phone; who on earth would want to by a dumb phone?

To be a successful innovator you need disruptive processes. What does this really mean? Perhaps what this is saying is you need to introduce change?

I have been introducing change for thirty years in business, education government and not-for-profits in 4 countries. I use the term innovation; after all, innovation introduces change that impact on the way we do things and the way we think about things. Even today, there is much confusion about innovation, invention, continuous improvement, Blue Ocean, Pink Sky; on it goes.

Everyone is fearful of change. I often ask my Executive MBA students “who likes change?” and people pop up their hand. I think “yeah right”, I then change either the assessment or syllabus and they freak out (an academic term) and then I think, my students are being trained to embrace change to enable them to grasp the future, mmm….

So how can you be successful using change (disruption)?

In your organisation you only have three things to work with. I know you are thinking, not another bloody checklist (have you seen LinkedIn lately, it’s THE place for lists and aphorisms, I love it). Well, it’s really simple, frighteningly obvious and scares the hell out of those people I like to call “the complicators”.

In your organisation you only have three things: (1) people, (2) current processes and (3) the products/services you sell.

To be a success, (for the purpose of this article success means that the organisation makes more than it spends consistently, or in the case of not-for-profits, reduces its reliance on grants and handouts) we need to determine which of the three is the easiest to disrupt?

The easiest to disrupt are processes, as processes do not resist change. The second easiest to change is the product or service. The real challenge, as you marketing enthusiasts know, is effective use of strategies and tactics to change the behaviour of consumers so that they embrace your new market offering and keep them from going to the competition.

OK, so you have guessed the hardest thing to change: people.

The reason is straightforward. We dislike and often resist change, because we simply do not or cannot effectively communicate the benefits of change to each other.

To change a process looks really easy, it is not at all.

In many organisations I work with, I am still surprised when management wonders why integrating processes do not work as planned. The classic example is when people from different parts of the organisation sit together and talk after processes have been changed and make it apparent that they still do not know what the other does or even worse, they don’t care.

So what should we do to create success?

Simply disrupting your processes in order to be successful is weak and often reactive. By using the word disrupt, we somehow dehumanise our organisations. We all work with people. People do not like change, especially in the current economic and technological turbulence.

Why not have conversations with those who work with and for you? Why not say to them: “we need to change or we will no longer exist”? Why not say: “help me to do this so we can all be successful”?


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