The more I think about Innovation and Innovation Leadership, the more I wonder about how it relates to the equally widely used term – Change Management. Surely if a change is worth making it should be innovative in nature, and what is innovation if not a change for the better?
Let us analyse the similarities:
- Innovation is achieved through taking the output of a creative process (an idea), developing it into something tangible with potential value, then realising that value (getting a return on investment) and having a leadership framework which allows all this to happen in the most effective way.
- Change Management traditionally talks about identifying the need for change, defining the processes needed to effect the change, communicating and implementing the change, measuring the impact of the change.
There seems to be a fundamental similarity here, but how alike are they in reality and is there sufficient overlap in the disciplines to make it valuable for each to learn from the other? Are they basically the same thing?
Perhaps Innovation Leaders could take a leaf out of the change management handbook around providing great focus on the behavioural changes needed for change to be embedded and successful, as too often innovators will foist change on an unsuspecting target audience without truly understanding their needs or communicating with them meaningfully. This leads to innovation failure.
Likewise Change Managers who often seem a little “traditional” in their approach to driving change (for example taking very risk averse approaches or over using metrics) could learn a lesson from the Innovation Leaders and use a fuller range of creative innovation processes that are now available. They could learn perhaps from open innovation strategies and be much more radical in the change they propose – remember Henry Ford “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse”.
So – what can the two communities learn from each other? Is there a real separation between the two? Should we strive to reduce this? Can we clearly differentiate approaches?
My view is that the two disciplines are 2 facets of the same gem, however there is a key differential which we should seek to remove. “Change Management” is usually and very clearly placed at the centre of the business and managed as part of its core activity, whereas Innovation is too often seen as something separate – witness the deadly “Innovation Initiative” which is set up by management who have been tasked “to be more innovative”. They react by nominating a few bright individuals to go off and and report back on what the answer is. This dissociation from the real business causes innovation to fail. Let’s look to move innovation into the centre stage and see it as part of the overall change management process within organisations.