Innovate in a Stagnant Environment – Here’s How!
Every boss claims they want innovation, but many don’t live up to the words they preach. For some it may be an aversion to risk, for others it may be out of their comfort zone to make improvements when the status quo is already working. How can we continue to innovate and improve our products and team members’ professional lives when faced with stagnation or resistance? How do we help improve the organization while still being good followers to senior leadership that is reluctant to innovate?
Small Changes/Small Victories
The most effective thing we can do is make small improvements that are within our own authority. Listen to your own team and see what suggestions they have that sound like they will make even minor improvements to effectiveness, productivity or communication. If it’s within your own purview to make the change on your team, go ahead and do it. Set a short fixed timeframe (a week, a month, 3 months) to evaluate it and the next leader in your chain know that you’re doing a trial evaluation of the initiative and you’ll let them know the results when it’s over. If it turns out to be unsuccessful, return to the old way of doing things and call it a learning experience. If it does work, share your results with your peers and other team leads.
Choose your opportunities wisely
There may be times when very senior leaders put out a call for innovative ideas or ask informally how you think the organization should be improved. These can be great opportunities if handled properly, but dangerous traps if they aren’t. Don’t leave your boss out in the cold when these situations arise. By pulling your boss in you can show that you have fresh ideas for the company but also show him and his superiors that you are looking out for all of them and trying to find ways to solve their problems. It can be as simple as telling that senior leader, “I have this great idea about X and my boss and I will get on your calendar to come fill you in on the details when you are available.”
Show the impact!
Showing tangible improvements is the best way to make sure your innovative ideas get adopted across the organization. If you can show a reduced cost, shorter time, or higher performance as a result of your initiative you’ll have strong evidence that you and your team have the organization’s best interest in mind. Being able to use metrics and data helps make your case, but be sure that you’re using the right metrics to show cause and effect. Many people lose credibility by trying to force data to fit their conclusions or apply metrics they don’t really understand to the situation. One of the best questions you can ask yourself before adopting an innovative idea is “How will I know this is successful and how can I measure it?”
These are ways I’ve seen innovation be successfully implemented from the bottom up, but the results may vary in your organization. If you think that these steps might work for you, but you want to talk through your strategy and the personalities involved with someone before taking the big step, feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to discuss and see if we can set you and your boss up for success!
Photo Credit: Alexander Blum (www.alexanderblum.de) [Attribution], <a href=”http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AStau.jpg”>via Wikimedia Commons</a>