Identify Your Organizations Ability to Think

No Innovation Without Corporate Sponsorship

Guest Article by David Frood, author “The Thinking Corporation”

If we are to come out of the global financial crisis with any kind of future, the world needs a new round of innovation to forge a wave of opportunity, growth and hope for current and future generations.

For decades, corporations have stifled innovation from within their ranks through an underlying culture that promotes and rewards conforming behavior. Some organizations have made positive moves from this position but there are not enough of them to guarantee our future.

Corporations have bought up and shelved innovations that have the capacity to negatively affect their bottom line. Rather than embracing them, these new innovations are seen as disruptive to their plans.

As a result, the world either waits until corporations are ready to release products, or at worst may never receive the benefits of who knows how many innovations that are simply buried due to selfish decisions by a minority group of executives.

Innovation from employees

In terms of innovation from employees, we need to ask ourselves how many millions of ideas to improve process, technologies and the quality of our daily lives are generated by employees each year. How many of these ideas are implemented? What effect does this have on our lives now and the lives of those to follow?

Successfully bringing a new product or service to market for the average entrepreneur/ inventor is a difficult task. These people need to hawk themselves around to venture capitalists and other potential sources of funding, giving away proprietary information every step of the way.

Corporates can't be trusted

If they do end up in discussions with a corporation in the same or similar industry, their chances of having their idea stolen or copied are too high for comfort. It is an unfortunate truth that the majority of corporations cannot be trusted with another’s intellectual property.

Most presentations to potential investors end with “NO”, or at best, we’ll get back to you. Meanwhile, the security of their idea is at risk, increasing with every contact they make. Many inventors are too introverted to go through this process and, as a consequence, sit on great ideas for years. The risk to society is that inventors lose their passion and return to whatever it was they were doing before, because that is much easier than trying to make a difference.

A conflicting set of circumstances

The majority of people work for small business. However big business has the systems, people and resources to successfully incubate and launch new products. Therefore, we have a conflicting set of circumstances where big business has what is needed to ensure our financial and ecological future, but does not have the culture or the will to take on innovation from within the ranks, let alone externally from entrepreneurs and inventors.

If larger businesses with resources at their disposal do not change to accommodate innovation, we will be discussing what went wrong a decade from now.

Everyone in business knows that if you keep doing the same things at best you will get a similar result and you should also be prepared for your company to slowly lose market share and start showing signs of financial stress. Organizations are aware of this but not so aware of what changes are required to become a conduit for innovation.

Balance of the traditional business model and new innovation

Most corporations have a belief that innovation is doing the same things only better and faster. This by no means suggests that they need to stop what they are doing and create risk by entering unchartered waters, but it does mean that business needs to incorporate a healthy balance of the traditional business model and new innovation.

If this does not happen we could see another round of large corporations putting out their hands for Government assistance, which will hardly be tolerated by the public a second time.

The need for change

To accommodate significant and prolonged change incorporating the on-going implementation of innovation, corporations need to change in a number of ways. Like all large scale corporate change, this should be implemented over time and in increments to ensure that the change is adopted by the corporation culturally and systemically.

We have been conditioned to be impatient about many things and it must be understood by the general population that for large corporations to adopt a new way of doing business could take many years of focus and planned adjustment.

3 stages of evolution

Employee engagement

The first stage of this evolution involves gaining the engagement of the workforce. Much of the workforce is now partially disengaged from the corporation that they work for, spending a great deal of paid time thinking and acting on personal matters.

The benefits to an organization of engaging their workforce is that they gain serious efficiencies with what people are already paid to do before embarking on the journey of accommodating innovation.

This is a necessary first step because logic states that you cannot take on any more tasks until you are coping well with the existing ones. The same principle applies across the organization.

The consequences of this phase are significant when you stop to think that even a one hour productivity improvement per week per employee for a 40,000 employee organization is equal to having 1,000 less people on the payroll!

One of the most successful motivations for people to act is their ability to be in control of their own outcomes. This is the key to optimizing the current state and can be achieved relatively simply through some process changes and training in facilitation skills.

Learning to manage thought

The second stage of corporate change can only be implemented once the first is achieved; otherwise the organization would be attempting to advance its operations without putting the right foundations in place. Now the corporation needs to learn how to manage thought. This is an educational as well as systematic solution as people generally will need to learn what they are capable of achieving.

For generations our workforce has been working under a master/slave relationship, where workers will follow orders through a chain of command. Obviously modern organizations are easier to work for than say 100 years ago, but still remains that way. The way people act in this environment is simply to react to a series of stimuli such as rules, management style, culture and the hierarchy of command.

Through educating people that they can think and that by thinking they can initiate something new is the first real task for stage two. To coincide with this, the corporation installs systems to deal with ideas as they are generated by employees. These same systems can be used to attract external ideas from inventors and entrepreneurs.

High-level cultural change

There is a final stage before organizations can truly manage innovation and secure their own futures and the futures of all employees. This third stage installs a high-level cultural change and decision-making matrix into the corporation that provides multiple inputs for all strategic decisions, thus increasing the probability of success for all major initiatives. We’ll leave this one for another occasion and concentrate on walking for now.

David Frood has 16 years experience consulting to medium and large organizations.

During this time he made a study of the talent within the ranks and the reasons why people rarely tell their employers about their ideas. He found that the reasons fell into 3 possible categories:

1. They would probably receive very little, if any compensation for their ideas when implemented
2. The idea could be stolen by another employee
3. Job security could be at risk through the employee becoming involved in areas outside of their position description

David's book “The Thinking Corporation” provides a solution to these issues.

A corporate change program is also available to transform organizations into "A Thinking Corporation". The program is available to be delivered by all change consultants following accreditation.

David also speaks on this subject. Bookings can be made here

Phone: +61412 296 463

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