Dealing with Fast Change in the Context of Innovation

Strategies for Dealing with Fast Change in the Context of InnovationCorporate innovation teams need to be better prepared to deal with the fast pace of change in business and thus also in their work with innovation.

I wonder how (or if) companies develop strategies for dealing with this. I did not find much on this topic so here you get some early ideas on how such a strategy could look like. Your input is highly appreciated!

First, they can consider this sequel of steps:

Prepare: Here the goal is to understand impact of changes as early as possible. You can develop a process to identify trends / changes with potential impact on innovation efforts and you can develop ways to measure magnitude and pace of these trends/changes. Some are foreseeable to some degree, whereas others come with less warning. The latter is of course more difficult to deal with, but any kind of preparation still helps.

You could also prepare by working with scenarios based on the above input. Once this is in place, it makes sense to make your innovation strategy more flexible.

Embrace: A well-prepared team has different kinds of response options in place and they will now activate these accordingly to the assessment of the trends and changes that are now impacting their innovation efforts.

Adapt: Sometimes you miss the boat and now, you need to adapt fast in order to catch up. This can draw upon the work made in the response options although you have to factor in that you are no longer ahead of the change, but behind it.

Learn: As with failure, you need to capture the learnings of the changes in order to be better prepare for the next step…

Drive: If you can get a process like this to work, you have a better change of driving changes within your industry.

As corporate innovation teams reflect on changes in this sequel, they should also consider that change happens at many different levels including products, technologies, services, processes, markets, internal organization, external ecosystems and government regulation.

Factors Affecting Responses to Change

One of my inspirational sources for this post was an article, Dealing with Change: Some Theory and Strategies, which included this list of factors affecting personal and/or organizational responses to change:

Degree of Choice About the Change: Imposed changes tend to be particularly difficult because you feel powerless from the outset, even if you happen to agree with the change. It is hard to generate a sense of ownership over a change which is imposed. Similarly, a black and white choice is more difficult to own, than one where you have the opportunity to select from a range of options (or generate your own ideas).

Compatibility of the Change: How does the proposed change relate to your life/organisational context – your values, beliefs, lifestyle, preferences or habits? The further you are required to move away from your ideology or comfort zone, the more difficult it is to respond positively to change.

Magnitude of the Change: Will it continue to impact on your life? If not, you might be able to tolerate an unpopular change more readily. Is it a big or small change? A small uncomfortable change is easier to make than a big one. The size and duration of the process of change, too, can affect your attitude to change. How much time and effort will be taken, firstly, in making a decision and, secondly, in implementing it?

Ability to Undertake the Change: Do you know exactly what change is being asked for? Do you have the competencies (skills, knowledge, attitudes and values) to adopt the change? Have you experienced a similar or related situation before? Are you aware of precedents elsewhere? Are there others who might be able to resource you in this process? Clearly, it’s impossible to implement a change unless you understand what is required, and have the ability to do it!

Awareness of the Impact of the Change: Have you thought through the overall consequences of this change occurring? Sometimes, fear of the unknown (the possible impact of the change) is unnecessarily overwhelming. On the other hand, without forethought, an apparently simple change can have serious implications which you didn’t plan for. Processing the possible implications of the change in a balanced way (looking equally at positives and negatives) can help overcome false barriers or challenge naive acceptance.

Number of Dimensions to the Change: Singular/isolated goals are easier to manage than multi-faceted ones which impact across a range of areas in your life/work.

Level of Control/Influence over the Change: This can apply to either the process of change or its outcomes. Personal change is generally easier to handle than structural change, because you are likely to have more power (or, at least, your sense of power seems more tangible). There are many aspects of power – control, influence, personal, cultural, structural, formal, informal, internal, external …

The degree of control or influence you have may vary in the decision making and implementation phases of the change. Information about who owns what may be clear/open, or confused/hidden. If you are dissatisfied with your level of power in one or more of these areas, it is likely to affect your willingness to change.

Let me know if you can share insights and/or examples on how companies prepare for changes in the context of their innovation process.

image credit: intersection image from bigstock

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Stefan LindegaardStefan Lindegaard is an author, speaker and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, social media and intrapreneurship.

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