Why Innovation Is so Important to Organisations and Why It’s Not Being Driven Properly

In this the first part of a series of articles, I show firstly why innovation is so important to organisations and how companies are generally failing in their attempts. The following articles then go on to show how the project office as a unique entity is perfectly positioned to implement innovation with specific examples on how to best do so.

Companies need to innovate

I entered the word innovation and I received more than 2 500 000 results in 0.48 seconds. If like myself you are a consultant and engage with c-suite executives you are fully aware like the search engines, that innovation is the buzz word in corporate boardrooms and with good reason.

KPMG’s 2016 Global Transformation Study shows that 96 percent of companies are in some type of organisational transformation due to changing their business models or some type of digitalization. Not only in the corporates but also on the global scene the 2018 Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum highlighted the importance of idea generation and the need for it in world economies.

Not only is the demand great for innovation. Data supports the need to innovate. Generally, there are three categories of companies those who failed to innovate and are now obsolete such as Kodak, Blockbuster, Xerox and Motorola those who due to innovation have been great successes Netflix, Airbnb etc.. and those who are somewhere in between these two groups on the way up or on the way down. How do we make sure our companies are on the way up?

Companies have a problem starting and an even greater problem with following through to see fundamental positive changes.

Research by McKinsey showed that most executives are generally disappointed by their organisation’s ability to innovate,  even more so is their ability to sustain innovation at any scale that will bring about significant financial gains. McKinsey goes on further to cite that the problem is that there are no best practices solutions to seed and cultivate innovation, that in organisations innovation is handled to haphazardly.

Take into account shifting marketing pressures and times of economic downturn, I believe its all to easy for companies to retreat back to the old way of doing things when financial pressures arise.  One of the things that are needed is a strong business case driven at the strategic investment level, right where the shareholders sit. There has to be a compelling reason and that reason has to be either drive new sales, decrease costs or maximize profits.

Failure to inform employees as to how things will change, and how they should now execute their day to day operations. People are creatures of habit

Leaders want people to do things differently, but fail to give them a clear picture of how things will change for these very same employees and how these employees should now conduct their day to day operations.  Take for example a traditional software development team in a large corporate. For years managers rewarded the team when they build instead of purchased software. You can forgive that development team for now feeling lost, and when people feel lost to they go back to what they know.

Remember your first day of work, or let’s say the first week or first month. Managers and loved ones would often ask you if you are settling in. You would respond with I am finding my feet. You would often see the experienced staff member and envy them for their knowledge of the ins and outs of their jobs, the confidence in their knowledge of what they needed to do each day.

Innovation and change is calling employees to literally live against what makes them comfortable. Now instead of them following the procedure that they have followed every day they need to do something new.  Suddenly they have these conflicting messages they need to deal with, in the past developers were told to simply finish their code, get the work done, now they are being encouraged to share their ideas, this change in behaviour is not going to come overnight and they will need active support.

Give them a strong enough reason to change their Autopilot modes.

Corporations need to understand that things are they way they are in their companies because of a number of really strong reasons. Corporations are made up of departments, teams and people, people who are used to operating in a certain way to meet certain demands. These patterns have grown over the years to where most people are in autopilot mode. They come into work on Monday, make their coffee amble over to their desks start their day with a 09:00 meeting and so the day unfolds. So to change a corporation or its business is often to fundamentally change peoples day to day operations and to change themselves and that needs a strong compelling why. As the famous fashion supermodel Linda Evangelista said “ I wouldn’t get out of bed for less than $ 10 000 dollars a day” employees are not going to support your initiation unless the benefits to them are clear.

How will their lives be better, will their salaries improve, will they have more freedom to express their own personalities? The vision for the change needs to be compelling enough for your staff members to get out of bed in the morning. And they won’t believe you if they don’t trust you first.

Listen to the people on the ground and partner with them. Make them feel valued.

So the leaders are all fired up and willing to change. What servant leadership has taught us is that if the change is to happen, if innovation is to succeed then it needs to happen from the ground up. An organisation is not going to change or innovate unless that has been entrenched into the culture of the organisation. Deloitte showed that C-level executives are adamant that culture and understanding culture is key to leveraging change.

Yes, leaders need to drive change, but for innovation to stick it needs to be owned by the entire organisation. Kotter’s model for change says you need a Change Army that is a diverse number of stakeholders throughout the organisation that will ensure that the momentum for change continues to grow. You need to be listening to your employees. What do they feel about the innovation is it a good idea, how is it preventing them from achieving their goals? Do they feel understaffed, are there too many shifting priorities, then reduce them. Provide for them some quick wins, show them you are listening and making changes and then they will believe you and follow through.

All these are needs and challenges are great but there is light at the end of the tunnel there is a team, or there should be that is perfectly positioned to tackle the above challenges that have the discipline of implementing positive change.  Who are they?

In the next article, we will further expand on exactly how the project office is the perfect team for the job, how they can go above and beyond meeting the above challenges but first it needs to reposition itself and the way the organisation see itself while remaining true to its original purpose and calling.

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson

Ben Richardson runs Acuity Training, an IT training business offering classroom courses in London and Guildford, Surrey. A leading provider of MS Project training the UK, it offers a full range of Project courses, from introductory courses through to advanced. He blogs and can be contacted at Acuity’s blog

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