Why Innovation Programmes Fail

There is only one real reason why Innovation Programmes fail and that is the fact that you have taken no action at all! I’m sure, however, that is not what you want to hear and you will be shouting ‘not true’ at you computer screen. One of the components of any such programme is learning, so that even if you don’t hit the targets you set for yourself you will collect some knowledge on the way and thus not ‘fail’. The only way you can fail, therefore, is by not doing anything thus not making any progress and not learning anything.

If you have read much literature on the topic of Change Management then inaction will be a recurring theme. Many Managers mistake discussion, planning and specification for action thus they believe that an initiative may be underway when it is not. When asked what is happening they will tell you that the Innovation Task Force is meeting regularly and soon they will have objectives and a plan. Great in the early stages but you should ask the question ‘Have you actually done anything?’. In many cases the answer will be no. So no surprise that your initiative will be flagged as failing when it never actually started. To Innovate you must DO SOMETHING.

Readers will I’m sure like a few pointers as to why they have not made the progress they anticipated when they have taken action, so here are some potential reasons. Not all will apply to you but use them as a checklist:

  • Employees do not know about your initiative – check communications
  • Employees do not care about your initiative – check motivation and morale as well as management sponsorship
  • Poor performance – did you identify any areas for training and development?
  • Nothing is happening – have you officially kicked things off, have you changed what YOU do? Are others sabotaging your efforts?
  • It all seems like hard work – do you have a team in place to help?

There are four broad categories of people to address when kicking off your innovation programme:

  • Enthusiasts – no problem here, welcome them with open arms
  • Disbelievers – ‘no that will never happen’, simply ‘do’ and conquer
  • The Angry – ‘over my dead body’ hard work (see below)
  • The Followers – ‘well if its going ahead I might as well tag along’, welcome these people also.

It is only the Angry (or Awkward) who pose a problem. What you need to realise is that a 70:30 rule applies here. If you run your innovation programme in an appropriate manner (you can borrow from Change Management here) then you will have 70% of your employees onside. There things aren’t so bad are they? So just DO, and you can’t actually fail!

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Working With Generation Why?

History has defined a series of generations such as the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and now Generation Z (or Generation Why?). Generation Y are the children of Generation X and are now in their late teens to early twenties, the University and College students of today. As far as technology was concerned they went from geek to chic. Generation X grew up as technology and the internet was mushrooming and Generation Y simply went gadget mad. They grew up in times of economic prosperity and so created a different outlook on life. Don’t like your job, then go and get another? Want to work from home, no problem?

Generation Y is more brand and image conscious, they are more likely to have addictions and undesirable habits, they exhibit less loyalty to employers and their family units are prone to breaking down.

Next comes Generation Z, or ‘Generation Why?’ as I like to call it. The world has changed very rapidly of late. We have seen the power of developing countries such as India, China and Brazil as well as global warming, famine, the collapse of financial systems and now the election of a black American president. We are entering an age where things are less certain (and hence anything is possible) and which will breed a new classification of human being. They will be innovators in the true sense of the word, choosing to be adaptable and flexible in their home lives as well as at work.

Unlike their predecessors, Generation Why? Will be asking tough questions such as ‘Why must we do things in this way?’, ‘Why do we have to make a mess of the planet?’, ‘Why won’t you listen to me?’. They will be like constantly inquisitive teenagers and using their skills and imagination to get what they want. Being slightly less materialistic than Generation X they will be willing to put in more effort at work, but only if it matches their own goals and aspirations.

Sounds like a nightmare? Not at all. There is a generation who are able and willing to look at things differently and get off their backsides. Great things can be achieved but only if these people are ‘managed’ in the right way i.e. given the right resources, intrinsically motivated and contained within ‘light touch’ management systems. This will be a challenge for Managers and Human Resources specialists but the results will be worth waiting for and help is already at hand to start the process.

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