Imagine for a minute that I have been asked by the top management in your company to radically change the way you work because they have bought into my philosophy about using Creativity as a serious business tool.You and your colleagues receive the following text in an email on Friday afternoon.
Our company is going to adopt a radical business model that will help us to be more efficient, get products to market faster but above all remain ahead of the competition. As a result there will be some changes to the structure of the organisation as well as the introduction of new management and business tools and for many there will be changes to the IT services provided by our IT department.
All affected staff will receive comprehensive training commencing on Monday morning. Please read the attached notes for your personalised training programme.
We are all excited by the forthcoming changes and we hope that you will be too
Your Senior Management Team
Are You Excited?
Just after you have read the email I bet that the word “excited” is not the first word that enters your head. Perhaps “worried”, “stressed” or “unhappy” are more likely to jump out at you. For many the phrase “oh no not again” might also feature. Many leaders like to espouse their enthusiasm for Creativity and Innovation but their employees often have a very different reaction. They envisage change with radical interventions causing radical change. This is often unwanted and unexpected, leading to stress as a result over concerns about working practices and sometimes job security.
So What Do You Do?
I guess that you will feel negative to some degree or other. You will not like the sound of an Innovation programme and certainly not the Creative ideas that are about to be foisted upon you. Your natural defence mechanisms will cause you to utter phrases such as “it will never work”, “its too expensive”, “we have tried it before”. But really you are hiding the real reasons for your negativity. What you are really thinking is “I am scared of how this will affect the way I work, my job security, pay and the power, influence and respect that I have built up over the years”.
If you are feeling desperate you will also be tempted to disrupt innovative new processes to ensure they fail. This will mean that you were proved right and the company will carry on with the established (and inefficient) ways of working.
What Should You Do?
If you are responsible for overseeing the implementation of a new Innovation project then you must first of all realise that potentially a large number of people will not like the idea and be prepared accordingly. People will resist in a number of ways. Be prepared for bad PR, strike action, criticism in the media or via social media as well as customers, suppliers and business pundits. After all, you are embarking on something completely new!
You must also be aware that the one thing we tend to dislike more than change is change over which we have absolutely no control. You should therefore work with your employees and involve them whenever possible. If they have a hand in designing or implementing new processes, they will begin to visualise how the changes will work, making them less scary and decreasing the resistance that you face.
Most People Do Not Like Creativity and Innovation
By and large, people dislike creative ideas and innovation, especially when it affects them at work. They might like to paint their house pink but not move their desk through 90 degrees!. In spite of what they say, most people do not like to try out new things, even when it is relatively simple to do so. To convince people of the benefits of being different you need to start them off with simple examples – perhaps a creative technique embedded in a meeting, changing a venue, moving chairs, changing participants etc. As soon as you can match improved results with the changes you have made then you can go further with your changes.
A note of caution here, if your consultant/advisor/facilitator is not open to change then ditch them now!
In a nutshell, if your organisation comes up with a radical innovation idea, you will find that your colleagues are most likely not jumping for joy, but rather jumping to criticise. Be prepared for the negative reaction and involve as many people as possible in the implementation.