On his blog, author and Bank 2.0 evangelist Brett King recently posted about the pitfalls of being an innovator within a large organization. Often, innovators are brash, young upstarts who come into a company with their own form of tunnel vision. For obvious reasons these innovators clash with the management, their fellow workers, or both. Their stay is brief and their impact is spotty. This is unfortunate because it robs both parties of the potential for change and the potential for success. King’s blog entry gives some examples of what happens and how organizations and innovators can avoid this fate.
The first way is to ‘soften their approach’. I would venture what King is really talking about here is communication. No one, including company management, likes to be told everything they have been doing for the last several years is wrong, even if it is. How then do you get this message across without alienating those you wish to influence? As Gandhi said: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, the only real power a person has is over themselves. If you want to change an organization, you need to change yourself first. Become the kind of person you want to communicate with and then you can really get to work.
If you’ve managed to do this, then you can try some new, practical ways to face the innovation dilemma further which may include doing what Google does and implementing a ‘20% time initiative‘ or following GE’s lead with a ‘time to think’ program. However, King writes that the main ways being used by companies to cope, are either trying to build innovation into their organization from the start or trying to circumvent the organization altogether when innovation is needed. Neither of these approaches, according to King, results in the most successful end.
So what’s the answer? If you are a company dealing with innovators, you need to empower them enough to be able to make something happen. Sprinkling the organization with more innovative types is one way to do this. King writes: “I figure the only way to build innovation teams that survive successful innovations is to seed these teams with members of the real organization, that split their time between both the innovation team and their real job. That way their enthusiasm spreads throughout the organization as they see real change being enacted.”