Archive for the ‘Organisational change’ Category.

Ten things businesses should know about what innovation is and isn’t

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Innovation is a common topic of debate and strategies in most businesses (be they new or well established). In the current economic climate, and with the huge potential of the likes of social media data, brands are increasingly looking at innovation (large and small) as a way to beat the competition.

But innovation is often misunderstood. After a recent event debating the topic at the Open University Business School, I left with some insights into what the attendees thought that innovation was, and some misconceptions about what it has to be (but doesn’t):

Five things that innovation is

  1. Innovation and growth are inextricably linked, according to the BBC’s Evan Davis. He surmised that innovation hasn’t come to a standstill in 2012, although we do have a growth problem which innovation itself will be crucial to solving.
  2. Delicate. It’s important to nurture it gently so as not to kill it off too quickly, but also carefully contain and manage it to prevent any huge financial, market, or reputational fires.
  3. More prevalent during recessions. The atmosphere of fear engendered by recession is often the trigger required to force organisations to adapt and survive (as opposed to ending up at the decline end of the sigmoid curve, such as Kodak), as well as being ideal for start-ups. Recessions tend to shake out the worst performers, and those simply coasting along with the status quo.
  4. Often within your team already. Any business is likely to have great ideas and innovators already within the team. An open and creative organisational culture and office space is crucial to finding, developing, and encouraging these employees, who will always move to another company (possibly a competitor) to innovate if they can’t do so where they are.
  5. Often the victim of resistance and sabotage. Some tactics to look out for and actively surface and manage include Peter Keen’s “lay low”, and “keep the project complex, hard to coordinate, and vaguely defined”. Plus also the wonderfully expressed “Say yes! But do nothing”.

Five things that innovation doesn’t have to be

  1. Big or complex. Sometimes the best innovation can come through a series of incremental steps which ultimately amounts to something quite large, impactful and radical. Such gradual change can often be more palatable in businesses.
  2. Hugely expensive or driven forward by companies. As demonstrated by the user-led innovations of the maker movement, and also Jugaad Innovation’s more flexible, frugal, and bottom-up approach.
  3. A risky business. At least not to the innovators – who have complete faith in their idea. It’s the financial backers who are taking the risks. However, if we’re taking an incremental approach, perhaps that can help reduce the overall risk by breaking innovation up into more manageable and less intimidating or costly chunks.
  4. A driver to cut costs. As it’s enabling many companies to retain their current cost bases but stretch those resources further into more countries and ventures.
  5. About technology. Thinking and process innovations show it’s not just about technology (e.g. queuing), and service innovations prove it’s not only about products either. Nevertheless, technology is certainly vital, and SAP UK’s CTO Adrian Simpson explored how innovation is being shaped by greater mobility (e.g. increase in mobile devices), social media and networks, the cloud, and huge data sets (including social data).

Ultimately, innovation seems to depend on persistence, belief, adaptability, and relevance to customers and the market. While its success relies on people, behaviour and skills, and spotting and pursuing the opportunity before it’s too late. Undoubtedly money and resources help, but perhaps more of a barrier exists in the minds of employees and cultures of organisations?

Why social business needs cultural change in any brand

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Change Priorities

Change Priorities (Photo credit: Christine ™)

When brands think about using social media across their business, the focus is usually on the things you will do, the tools you will have in place, the audiences you will work with and how you will report on progress. But more often than not any social business initiatives will need cultural change in your own teams if they are really to be a success.

Any new social initiative should not just be about bolting something on to an existing campaign, process or activity; initiatives that are done like this are the most difficult to make work. Social will have biggest impact when it is more fundamental to what you are trying to do.

So rather than just adding a Twitter account to an existing customer service channel, the real return will be when you think about ways to start redesigning your customer service based on consumer behaviour and the tools that are available.

And to make the most of things that are this fundamental you need cultural change in any organisation if they are to be a success.

When thinking about cultural change there are usually three main considerations:

1. Do your team really understand the role social plays for you?

Most people will use some form of social media in their personal life, and the danger is to take this understanding and behaviour into the workplace. That’s not necessarily the most useful way of thinking of social business. Whilst you are unlikely to articulate clear objectives for your personal Facebook page, or to plan content for the next three months, it is critical you do this as a business.

Your team need to truly understand what social means for a business, and specifically what it means for your business and for their role.

2. Do your team have the skills to make the most of social?

For anybody, social presents new opportunities and also new skills that need to be learned - technologies are changing and consumer behaviours are changing so businesses need to be able to constantly adapt to capitalise on these.

Education and a forum for sharing what is happening are critical to the success of any social business, and this needs to be at all levels but is critically important at senior executive level. Those people driving the business need to understand the opportunities (and limitations) of social if they are to effect real change.

3. Is your team structured in the right way for social?

Many of the ways we structure organisations are based on the traditional ways we have and still work. And they are often effective. But when you are thinking about social business you should consider if these same structures and processes work.

If you are redesigning your customer care processes, for example, do you still need the team to come to a central office every day? Should they all be working office hours or the hours you get most interactions in social media? Even should customer service in social be done by a particular team alone or be supported actively by people across the business who work in the areas being discussed.

The danger with social media is that you focus on what you are doing and that you bolt it on to existing processes, programmes and campaigns. That is always a real shame - you will probably miss the real opportunities that exist across your business, and when you think about social business in this way you will need to consider internal cultural change if it is to really work.