Sunday 23 March 2014

How receptive are you, your boss or your organisation to new ways of doing things, new ideas and innovation?

Few things humble and annoy us more than seeing others do what we do well significantly better than we do it ourselves.
We are all creatures of habit, even in our private lives we tend to read the same newspapers, drive the same brand of car, and remain with the same communications supplier. Why shouldn’t we?
Leon C Megginson (Professor of Management and Marketing at Louisiana State University), in 1963 said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the most adaptable to change.’ This remains equally relevant today as it was then.

Considering the organisations we are part of, most are pretty conservative, earning profits with products or services introduced years ago. Certainly we strive to improve them, but a constantly changing (and at an ever increasing rate) world confronts us with fact that in the long run we cannot survive on doing the same things better and cheaper. Sooner or later the market will meltdown. Look what’s happening to: paper invoices, the fax machine, or the home video tape recorder, and what happened in the past to: the audio cassette player (Walkman™), Betamax™ video systems, and camera film. The challenge is how to ensure your organisation is conducive to doing things differently, receptive to new ideas and ensuring it actively encourages adaptability. How does your ‘Innovation Fitness’ stack up?

What is innovation? Put simply it is doing different things, going into new territories, using new techniques, using new back-office functions, new products, anything to improve the customer experience. On the one hand you are well aware that you have to take new roads before you reach the end of the present cul-de-sac. On the other hand innovation is risky. It can take a lot time, resources and quite frankly, guts. Many of us are risk adverse making the first move all the harder, the most difficult part of a run is opening the front door. Research indicates that only one out of seven innovation projects is successful, so saying yes to innovation can be a risk.

Would you invest your personal savings in a project with a 7 to 1 chance of success? Probably not, but, and here’s the nub, unless you have to. Last year the CEO of BWM AG when asked why BMW started the risky E-car project he responded and I paraphrase ‘Because doing nothing was even a bigger risk’.

So generally, organisations and all their stakeholders will only stick their necks out if doing nothing is a greater risk. They need to break the status quo and create momentum for adaptability through new ideas by making them nervous that doing nothing is a big risk in its own right.

Organisations need to nurture a culture of adaptability, where new ideas are not stifled but actually encouraged and where people are not reticent to suggest new things. Companies, whilst recognising the risk of innovation and doing nothing, need to introduce procedures to mitigate and manage that risk.  

Fortunately, there is a plethora of information about this. Exeter University has developed an ‘Innovation Fitness Test’ which evaluates the organisation’s current position and recommends actions to further compound strengths and correct weaknesses. This review can take a few days, however, they have produced a shortened self-assessment questionnaire taking only 15 minutes to complete. This teaser document of 40 straight forward statements (a magazine type questionnaire) assesses how ‘fit’ your company is to 'do things differently' and shows the results in a radar chart. Get different parts of the organisation to complete and compare. I have a MS Excel version of this and if you wish to receive a copy please email me at

Go for it, be more adaptable and receptive to change, embrace it! Good luck.
This was written by Steve Currigan, a Commercial FD with many years experience as an FD in the renewable and sustainable energy, building facilities and print sectors. It was first published at

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