Solving the Innovation Learning Problem

by Janet Sernack

One of the most challenging and thrilling aspects of reinvention, transformation and business game shifting is the opportunity it creates for continuous, experiential and deep learning and change.

This brings to life the new mantra that many organization, here in Australia, are sprouting around innovation, which is to “fail fast to learn quickly”.

Most of us know that organizational innovation involves making serious and significant change, yet what most of us are challenged by is how change impacts on, and disrupts four-core human structures: cognition, emotion, body and will.

There is a distinct opportunity for organizations to better accept, acknowledge, and learn how to adapt, flow and intentionally shift within these four structures. Doing this enables them to affect the deep, powerful and positive changes that innovation requires: because they will deliver successful organizational change or reinventions, develop innovative organizations and achieve a business transformation that result in increased competitiveness, growth and value.

Working on the People side of innovation

Our global innovation eco-system team met online recently to explore how these four structures impact and play out on the people side of Innovation. We discussed and agreed that most people are naturally wired to resist, rather than embrace change. We explored how the clues to accepting, flowing and shifting our auto-pilot and reactive responses to change, lies in these four-core human structures: because change catalyzes and ignites people’s differing range and depths of fears resulting in a painful physiological stressed state. People feel uncomfortable, out of control, insecure or unsafe, or a mixture of these painful stress states.

This suggests that when people are expected to change by “failing fast to learn quickly” all these painful stress factors, combine unconsciously with their old memories, perfectionism, and emotional anchors around making mistakes and failure, punishment and retribution, and implicitly come out to play in the form of resistance. This is what prevents them from seeing, adapting to, and realizing the benefits that change can bring.

We discussed how these factors impact significantly on how some organizations currently approach innovation and how resistance gets catalyzed, ignited and comes out to play with any inherent complacency, resulting in the “innovation permafrost” settling in. This manifests and festers with their already “fractured attention” in denying that real changes are needed, embeds risk adversity and justifies sustaining the status quo.They may even appoint an innovation manager and seek short term training solutions to tick off their innovation “to do” list.

The innovation disconnect

We explored how these factors cause not only resistance to change, but also how they inhibit and prevent organizations from adapting, competing, growing and innovating through discovering, design and delivering innovative solutions that add value to the quality of People’s lives.

This “disconnect” is most apparent between the approaches organizations take towards embracing innovation.

There is a difference between a “true” fluid strategic, systemic and learning anchored approach, which truly enables and supports people to “fail fast to lean quickly”  AND  a short term, episodic “methodical” training and functional-based approaches to innovation where people don’t have permission and safety to “fail fast to learn quickly”.

Fluid Strategic and Systemic Innovation

We described “true” fluid innovation as passionately purpose driven, strategic, leader led, systemic & human centered approach involving:
Being empathic and compassionate as to where people are at, being accepting and acknowledging of their fears and resistance, allowing them and giving them permission to be vulnerable and express their concerns, and listen carefully and acknowledge these as being true for them. (cognition, emotion, body and will)
Igniting one’s intrinsic motivation to pull them towards the possibility of a more compelling and desirable future (when the change has been implemented), that is meaningful and purposeful to them (aligned to their needs & values) and worth the discomfort of pursuing.(cognition, emotion, body and will)
Enhancing emotional capacity including resilience and determination. (cognition, emotion, body and will)
Effecting deep mindset & behavior changes that enable them to take smart risks, improvise, experiment and learn from failing. (cognition, emotion, body and will)
Coaching people through the discovery, design and delivery phases of innovation enabling them to learn by doing; inventing, iterating, getting user feedback (positive and negative) and pivoting creative ideas with a minimal viable product, process or service. (cognition, emotion, body and will)
Developing capabilities through developing their generative discovery skill set to enhance and embed curiosity, collaboration and creativity into the workplace(cognition, emotion, body and will). Ultimately resulting in initiating a culture of innovation where People deliver system and process improvements, and disruptive and radical products and services that customers value and cherish, as well as secure organizational growth, competitiveness and deliver an authentic business transformation.

Episodic Methodical Innovation

We described episodic “methodical” innovation as functional or training programs based incorporating specific subjects including: innovation management, design thinking, agile and SCRUM programs. These train people in the crucial “how to” skills that are required to effect system and process improvements, which are also important to overall innovation success.

Ultimately resulting in people delivering mostly incremental and differentiated products and services that customers value and cherish, and deliver improved efficiencies and productivity within the sphere of continuous improvement.

The innovation solution

We saw that taking an “either/or” approach, in other words, just taking “either” a fluid, “or” just a methodical approach is a serious waste of an organizations time, investment and efforts.

We agreed that organizations that courageously commit to embrace a “both/and” approach will generate its adaptiveness and agility, as well embed deep and continuous learning that enables and empowers people to innovate by “failing fast to learn quickly”. By integrating the “fluid strategic and systemic approach” with the “episodic methodical “approach, organizations can flow and flourish in delivering the outcomes and achieving the business performance they want.

It all depends on the change or breakthrough an organization wants

A recent article “Digital-Era Change Runs on People Power” from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) states that; “putting People first can lead to innovative thinking and dynamic results”.

This suggests that organizations have a fundamental choice to make – they can take the safe and less disruptive surface based change approach and improve efficiencies and productivity and possibly embed a culture of continuous improvement.

Alternately, they can invest their valuable resources, time and efforts in a “both/and” integrated, courageous, risky and continuous learning journey along the “road less travelled” and intentionally disrupt complacency and resistance by:
Safely taking them outside of their comfort zones and working with, and across their four-core human structures.
• Adopting a fluid, culturally anchored, strategic and systemic approach that will develop People’s capacity to be adaptive.
• Designing and delivering a deep blended learning journey that builds People’s capability to innovate by enabling and empowering them to safely be, think and do things differently.

As many know, journeying along “the road less travelled” is never the easier or quicker path, to take. In this case, it requires investing in building people’s and organizational capabilities through emphasizing and embedding a culture of robust continuous learning that maximizes people’s collective genius by integrating their four-core structures; cognition, emotion, body and will.

This ensures that innovation becomes a collective, creative and collaborative challenge that results in making innovation part of everyone’s job, every day.

Find out more about our work at ImagineNation™ then join the next free monthly webinar in our Making Innovation a Habit Series and “Be-Come an Agility Shifter” – the emerging role for innovation leadership. Register now at http://www.imaginenation.com.au/free-monthly-webinars/ It’s on Thursday, 22nd November 2017 at 11.00pm London, 12.00pm Amsterdam, 6.00am New York, 3.30pm New Delhi, 6.00pm Singapore, 7.00pm Perth and at 9.00pm in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

image credit: bigstockphoto.com

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janet-sernackJanet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack

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