I, Roadblock of Innovation

IMG_3885Creating new service in a established organisation is hard, very hard if you take the word for the speakers of last weeks breakfast seminar, Perkele! held at the Tennispalatsi movie theatre.

Unsurprisingly, the big two challenges are the onboarding of fellow employees and fighting the rigid organisational structures that are built to support the existing businesses.

When one is creating something new, one is bound to step on somebody’s toes, bend the rules, or work on the gray area, which all are likely to cause friction in the organisation. According to a speaker, the best indicator that one is doing something great is the amount of negative phone calls one gets from ones colleagues, saying that something one does is impossible or shouldn’t be attempted at all.

But why do we become such roadblocks of innovation and not embrace the change?

Having worked for more than fifteen years in the ict services industry, I’ve already witnessed first-hand the shifting priorities of co-workers from eager and opionated to playing it safe at the workplace.

The older we grow, the more time we’ve had to explore and refine our taste. Our life may focus more around the family. All this leads to the fact that we are spending less time discovering new things and more doing the things we love.

DiffusionofideasMy perception is that we all move in the Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovatios scale from innovators to laggards almost unknowingly, if we do not put conscious effort into exposing ourselves to new ideas. The less we are exposed, the more the new ideas start to frighten us and more likely we are to hold on to the facts and working patterns we already are familiar with.

So then, how to get colleagues out of their shells?

According to one of the Service design thinking luminaries, Marc Stickdorn, the best way to get people involved and cheer for the project is to create a safe place, where everybody can participate and fail without fear of losing face.

To create a safe environment the colleagues need to be led to forget rank, job description or competence and get to know the others personally. This might take time, but luckily there are plenty of methods that help to set the tone of the workshop or a meeting where new business is being innovated.

The simplest thing one can do is to hold a meeting standing up. This might not sound a big of a change, but standing up people are using their bodies more to communicate and it prevents them checking email or computer, making them present in the meeting. Better yet, hold the meeting walking outside. Some people even go as far as in Helsinki, where employees bring their colleagues to their homes to work for a day.

Another good tip from Mr Stickdorn is to start a workshop with a pair discussion, where either of the pair starts with a phrase “Let’s go on a trip together, I’d like to travel to X” and the another responds “Yes, but Y”. The original person counters “Yes, but Z”. After two minutes, do the exercise again, but this time, instead of “but”, say “and”. It is remarkable how the tone is different in these two discussions.

When ones colleagues get to know each other well, they are less likely to frown and reject new ideas.

And if there are something that have been proven time and time again, an enthusiastic person with an idea is way more powerful than any organisational hurdle, which is there only to keep the business standing still.

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