Lucia Adams – How to Innovate in Organisations That Don’t Like Failure

BY JAMES GADSBY PEET ON MARCH 6, 2018

Summary:
In order to drive lasting and sustainable change, you need to be curious about the people you’re working with and explore their perspectives. This helps you to collaborate with all parts of the organisation no matter what their attitude to change may be. Finally, you’ve got to be lean, delivering quick wins that you can build together to win hearts and minds.

Big Organisations Love the Idea of Innovation – but They Struggle With the Reality

Innovation is all about trying things, many of which which won’t work. It means prototyping, testing and learning; putting things into the real world which aren’t perfect. Whilst many big companies will say they want to experiment and fail fast – they invariably want to replace the word “fail”, with “succeed”. So, how do we operate in this context and still drive change?

Experimentation Feels Like Slow-Motion Failure

Many of your stakeholders may not be used to co-creating a solution that isn’t yet proven to work. They will likely have a particular skill – they understand that skill, have established ways of measuring its success and do not see the need for change. For them, discovery, making mistakes, and failing along the way is what they’ve spent their entire careers trying to avoid. Experimentation is a really significant shift in mindset. Work to understand this situation and how it makes people feel.

Digital is 10% Tech and 90% Human

Most organisations talk about digital transformation as if it is 90% tech and 10% human. They see it as a collection of tools developed to give them new capabilities. However, for these tools to function, you have to take account and develop the human side of things too. It is your role to focus on these changes just as much as the roadmaps of features you create.

Create Relationships and a Shared Vision

The relationships that you build will be your most powerful resource when trying to drive change with people who don’t see the need for it. You can use these relationships to connect with people on the purpose of why you are there. You will always find something to agree on, even if you disagree on some specifics. Do this, and you will be able to convince people to take risks and inch by inch, move forward.

Co-create Success Stories and Tell Them Again and Again

It’s tempting to hire a great group of specialists and for them to own the story of change at an organisation. In many ways, this allows you to achieve more in a shorter space of time. However it means you leave the organisation behind and ultimately it drags you backwards, and you fail to create lasting change. By genuinely incorporating the organisation into the process, you can ensure that people understand it, buy into it and will help to move it forward once you aren’t there. This will give the organisation stories of success that can be told by everybody in a way that others understand and helps to drive change sustainably.

Recruit a Team of Weebles – the Power is in the Recovery

Weebles wobble, but they never fall down. The knock-backs that you and your team will experience are the most important part of the process of change that you go through. Ensure your team understands this and doesn’t take it personally – but appreciates it as part of the change that they’re looking to drive. A relationship that’s broken down is a real opportunity for a new, stronger partnership. There is huge power in the recovery of a situation – that ultimately makes you stronger.

Tune in to What’s not Being Said and Explore it

You have a huge capacity to feel what is happening in any situation – even if it is not being said. We are able to perceive more than we can describe – use this skill to empathise with people when driving change. It’s often uncomfortable to discuss and explore these feelings – but it is a powerful way to drive progress. The best way to do this is find your biggest critic, sit down with them and work out what’s going on in their world to make them feel and act like they are.

Accept That Everyone is Somewhere on the Grief Curve

It’s a useful exercise to sit down and work out where all your big influencers are on the grief curve. It allows you to engage with them in particular ways, depending on where they are. You’ll want to treat them differently depending on which stage they’re at. As always, build empathy with their feelings and work with them on a way out of it.

Look After Yourself

Change is hard for anyone. Driving change can feel like a never-ending battle that you’re always losing. Make sure that you have a community of support to help you work through this and deliver what you’re meant to for the organisation. If you’re not in a happy place, then you won’t be able to make the best choices for you, your team or your company. See this as a skill, that you have to practise in order to be an expert practitioner.

James Gadsby Peet

About JAMES GADSBY PEET

I've been in the digital industry for over 10 years and have worked across small and large charities, as well as my own freelance projects. I am now Director of Digital at the sector leading creative agency William Joseph. Having been at Cancer Research UK for the last four years, I have been able to work on high volume, high profile campaigns such as Race for Life, Dryathlon and the much-quoted #nomakeupselfie. In that time I helped drive forward the charity’s digital product and marketing capabilities to be some of the most respected and successful in the sector. I'm always excited to work with other organisations, share expertise and swap cat gifs. Give me a shout!

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