Overcoming resistance to innovation
I was speaking this week in Chicago, promoting Relentless Innovation through the good graces of Big Frontier and Mobium. During the Q&A one individual pressed into my hand a scrap of paper with the formula DxVxF > R and the words Gleicher Formula. Of course my thesis in Relentless Innovation is that many businesses subtly resist innovation because the "business as usual" operating processes have been honed for 30 years of evolving management philosophies (TQM, BPR, Lean, Six Sigma) and little has been done to build or encourage innovation capabilities. When the irresistable force of innovation meets the immovable rock of trusted processes, which do you think is the loser? The idea you came up with an hour ago, or the processes and methods you've developed and perfected for 30 years?
Anyhow, according to the transitive property, if innovation = change, and change = fear, then innovation = fear and must be resisted. So, how can the Gleicher Formula help us think about creating the environment necessary for innovation to be embraced, rather than resisted or feared?
The formula is stated as DxVxF > R. Where:
- D stands for dissatisfaction of the current state
- V stands for a clear vision of the desired state and
- F stands for the first concrete steps toward that desired state
- R stands, of course, for resistance
All three factors must be present, and diminishment of any of the factors creates diminishment of the whole left side. This leads us to a second conclusion: no matter how much executives demand innovation (creating dissatisfaction and perhaps creating a vision of the desired state), if they don't create definite actions, programs and plans to improve innovation, then they won't overcome resistance to change. This means that organizations need to be unhappy with the status quo, regardless of how the market views the status quo, have leaders who define a clear future opportunity and have definite plans to implement change to achieve the desire future state. Only then will momentum be large enough to overcome inertia and resistance.
The forgotten F
From our earliest days in school (at least for those of us who remember the A through F grading scale and were around when they still offered Fs), F has occupied a very negative position in most people's minds. F represents failure. In Gleicher's formula, F is equally as important as D and V, but most executives understand D (evaluation of results and current state) and V (creating a vision) very well, but since many executives didn't rise to their roles by implementing innovation, and aren't sure if innovation is anything more than creativity and black magic, they don't know how to create the "F", which are the concrete plans, commitments and steps toward creating the desired future. This is like reading the cook book and wondering why dinner isn't ready when you didn't buy the ingredients and didn't heat the oven. Executives who want to get better at innovation, who want to overcome inertia and resistance (R) to innovation, need to get better at the "F".
Getting better at the "F"
This need is serendipitously filled by another product we've created call the Executive Innovation Workmat. This consulting assessment is meant to help executives understand their roles in innovation beyond simply asserting the need for innovation. The workmat helps executives identify organizational strengths and gaps, and indicates the activities that the executives themselves must take to create a sustaining infrastructure for innovation. Using the workmat approach, executives can identify clear first steps toward an innovation structure or framework, which will accelerate acceptance and reduce resistance to change and innovation.
Take a look at your organization and its subtle but powerful resistors to innovation. Does the resistance arise from D, dissatisfaction with the current state? Does the resistance arise from a lack of V, vision about the future state? In organizations that are ahead of the pack, D may be the stumbling block. Few firms suffer from V, executive vision. Over 70% of CEOs claim innovation as a top three priority. Most organization suffer from a lack of F, First concrete steps. Learning to define and take those steps will help dramatically reduce innovation resistance.