Insuring success of transformation, launch or innovation initiative by earning buy-in. 4 steps, 5 minutes.
We started with our Vision. Morale got worse?!?!
I recently had the privilege of taking a call from a colleague who was tapped to lead a transformation (otherwise known as a reorganization) of a multi-billion dollar company. A Vision was created, “To create a world class organization,” and articulated to the organization. Rather than seeing enthusiasm and people rallying to the cause, resentment and frustration were bubbling below the surface.
Some simple omissions shifted the balance.
Transformation is hard. Most people don’t like it. There is a simple reason. It’s associated with uncertainty and disruption, things most people fear. In the business world this beautiful word, Transformation, has become synonymous with change and “cutting,” (costs and personnel). When you’re transforming, launching or innovating, despite the best of intentions, you’re creating change (disruption and uncertainty). Starting transformations, launches or innovation with Vision is a great start in overcoming fear and resistance to change. It is human nature to want to be inspired and to want to be part of something great. But focusing on Vision and stopping there is a double edged-sword. In articulating what you want to be, you’re also saying something about where you are--its saying we’re not there. For those that helped create where you are, that can be a problem, one that creates resentment and frustration and can kill any transformation, launch or innovation. Why? If we’re not where we want to be and you were part of that, will you be part of the solution or part of the cuts? Uncertainty, disruption and fear! When you have uncertainty, disruption and fear, people are looking out for themselves, not working towards the goal you’ve stated.
Creating safety with Why, Acknowledgement, Appreciation and an Invitation. W+A+A+I=S and it only takes a minute.
There are four simple things you can do that can help overcome fear and create safety and they only take a minute.
1) Inspire! Include your Why. Vision is great. Why are you doing it? Tap into the deeper reason and align behind it.
2) Acknowledge the hard work, dedication and energy that got you where you are. Are you world-class? Maybe, maybe not. But if you’re around, undoubtedly people worked hard to get you there and people need to know that you see that.
3) Don’t stop there! Offer Appreciation for the people and things that got you to where you are. Appreciating what's been done doesn’t undercut trying to do something new. It shows people you’ll notice again when this transformation goes well.
4) Offer an Invitation to join in an incredible ride in which people will be acknowledged and appreciated when success is achieved.
The simple steps in action
The acknowledgement: “I want you to know that I know we wouldn’t be here today without the hard work and dedication so many of you have offered the company.
The appreciation: I want to offer my appreciation for the work you’ve done and the successes we’ve created. You’ve made a difference and created the platform for an exciting next step in our evolution.
The Invitation (including Why): “The next step of our evolution is to transform ourselves in to a world-class organization in order to further fulfill our mission of empowering the planet to access the information they need to live better lives. I need your help to do it. I know the talent to pull it off is right here in this room. And I’m excited to have the opportunity to work on this with you.”
Transformation, launches and innovation are hard. Don’t make them painful too.
I’ve led businesses, transformations and launches. They’re hard. They’re even harder when your team isn’t aligned and enthusiastic. Not everyone will be. But I can tell you from personal experience that if you can articulate your Why and your vision AND couple them with Appreciation, Acknowledgement and an Invitation, you’ll increase the odds for success dramatically. It only takes a minute. But, it’s the foundation for the success you want to create.
Before the patent and trademark attorneys get up in arms, let me explain. There are a rare few on this planet who come up with completely revolutionary ideas. Albert Einstein comes to mind. For folks who study the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ), you’ll know that only 1% of the inventions studied—they looked at more than 200,000 patent filings--fit this category and were classified as Pioneering Inventions. Another 4% were considered an invention outside a paradigm. The rest, well, they were great ideas, but not necessarily revolutionary or “inventive.” They were, instead, smart people, employing inventive ideas that other people had come up with. But these smart people combined those great ideas and applied them in new ways. Innovation through Combination.
The Foundation of Sustainable Innovation
You can brute force innovation without inspiration for a while. Smart people and businesses have shown that time and again. If there is a problem to solve, people will find ways to do it. But when you look at individuals or businesses that are continually innovating and creating competitive advantage, what’s the common thread? The answer, for me, is a simple one. Connection with Purpose. Said another way, connection with your Why, your reason for doing what you do. With that, creativity, innovation and the energy to put in the hard work to create it are natural outcomes. If you find yourself trying to innovate and don’t feel passionate about why you’re doing it, the odds are that innovation will be a lot harder to come by and you certainly will struggle to sustain it for the long-term.
If You’ve Found Your Why, There are Roadmaps, Processes, to Innovation
TRIZ tells us that there are 40 inventive solutions which have repeated themselves time and again and serve as the foundation for problem solving. After looking at more than 250 businesses, St Gallens Business School has gone so far as to define 55 identifiable business model patterns that can help define nearly every business we see today. Some might see this as depressing. It limits our ego-driven need to be an inventor. For me, I find it refreshing. There is a roadmap for catalyzing our thinking and ideas and tools to help us get there. The process is Combination Innovation.
The Way Out, Why-Powered Combination Innovation
For those looking for solutions, they’re there if you’re committed to finding them AND you connect them to your WHY--infusing the process with the required passion to make it happen. I’ve been blown away by what Why-focused Executive teams can accomplish in a short period of time with some well-prepared external stimuli. The process, Combination Innovation, is simple. Introduce external stimuli such as business model patterns, solutions sets used to solve other challenges in other industries, emerging trends, data and ideas to imitate--to recombine. Focus on how to apply that stimuli to your business. Run them through a defined set of vetting criteria. For the winners, determine how they fit into your business model, including your Why. Repeat. Great ideas emerge and often the "solution," the innovation, is a combination of those ideas put together. For those really looking for truly out-of-the-box, introduce new voices in the room to guide the process and offer fresh perspective.
Innovation Is For Everyone and It Creates Competitive Advantage
Innovation isn't just for rocket scientists. Nor is it something to be ignored. It is for anyone, 1) willing to reconnect with their Why and 2) willing to open their mind to looking at and combining things in new ways. Be bold. Be daring. Imitate to Innovate and create competitive advantage!
Innovation Can Come From the Bottom Up
Those words, spoken at the Bottom of the Pyramid World Summit have stayed with me. In the context of the BoP World Summit, it was a reminder that the minds at the margin, the "poor," should be involved in the solutions designed for them. If listened to, Minds at the Margin can be the source of innovation sought by those seeking to solve problems. While the phrase emanated from a summit dedicated to finding inclusive solutions and innovations for solving poverty, let there be no doubt it has application in the affluent world and our jobs.
Bottom-Up Innovation Applies in Nearly Every Circumstance
As I reflect on my work over the past 18 years running companies and consulting with big, small, for-profit and not for-profit enterprises, a common thread emerges. The answers to the challenges we face and the innovation we seek often lie where we least expect them: in the minds of those at the margins. Unhappy customers. Employees who haven't been put in a position to succeed. People who have been marginalized by traditional top-down leadership.
Great Leaders Create Cultures for Innovation to Bubble Up
In my experience, great leaders and innovators don't seek to provide all the answers. They seek out the voice of those at the margins, create a culture for them to be heard and build systems for those ideas to be woven into tapestries that are richer, more vibrant and more resilient than any one individual could create on their own. As they do that, they create a Combination Innovation culture capable of overcoming the challenges they face and catalyzing their teams to achieve their Why, their mission.
A Simple first Step for You
Weighty stuff? Perhaps. But it really is as simple as a shift in mindset. A shift to seeing the Minds at the Margin as a source of solutions and innovation, not the cause of challenges that require them. It starts with one simple step, asking what they think. For those of you in leadership positions I offer you a simple challenge. The next time you've got a problem to solve, a job to be done, start by listening to those at margins and see what emerges. It may just be the start of the solution you seek. Innovation from the Bottom Up isn't just a catch phrase for a conference (the BoP World Summit), it's a mindset shift that can help solve problems in any circumstance.
The voice and stories from this blog originate from the collective wisdom and experiences not just of our team, but with those we were fortunate to learn from.