Innovate to Survive: Eight Obstacles, Eight Solutions (Part 4)
6. Communications Patterns and Methods
Communications is changing in most organizations, forced by the Internet. We all use e-mail, even to communicate with the next office. This is a good beginning (perhaps with the exception of using e-mails to communicate across the dinner table). It is self-evident that e-mail is needed for survival in today’s electronic environment. But it is only the beginning.
In many organizations, hierarchy and habit stand in the way of more extensive and necessary communications changes. Organization charts take on an unwanted lives of their own. Does your organization have an internal electronic open door policy? Do you have a process to communicate with your colleague in France or Brazil or even across departments. You should. Can you easily share data, especially on new projects? Perhaps internal confidentiality is more dysfunctional rather than useful.
Solution: Find new ways to communicate. A friend who teaches in University told me he asks all his students to post their assignments on a classroom social network bulletin board. When students ask how they did on an assignment, he sends them to the site with a list of what to look for in a superior assignment. “They can tell which ones are creative and show original thinking.” While he still assigns grades, the grades are secondary to learning. Social networks might not be the solution for you, but new forms of communications (even old forms like text messaging) might be. And throw away the hierarchy barriers.
7. Same old, same old environment
Most meeting rooms, offices, board rooms always look the same, feel the same, and generate the same tired emotional response from those who sit in it.
Solution: Change the room. Add decorations for the meeting or innovation session. Add frivolity. The local party supply house can be your ally. And it can help move your spirit. Or use an off-site location. A one on one meeting at the nearby coffee shop instead of your office can work wonders. A change of scene helps release your imagination.
8. Alphabet Generations
The Boomer, Gen X, Gen Y divides are among the greatest innovation challenges faced by many organizations. The age groups have different values, expectations, behaviour patterns, even different cognitive brain functions. At times, they seem to speak different languages. Gen Y has learned better than their older brothers and sisters how to find and process information, then relate it to other information. But they don’t do rote learning. So successful school educators or work trainers include video presentations, instant feedback, simulations and lots of practice. Evaluation typically means open book or take home exams. Games are increasingly being used in schools. How about the workplace? Standbys like flex time, extended mat leave – for men and women– part time and contract work that enables one to be home for the kids or maintain other interests are becoming more standard and necessary than ever. New remuneration formulas that take into consideration new work and life requirements are needed.
The common need is innovation, in process, attitude, culture, behaviour, expectations and rewards. For corporations, the choice is change or die. For the individual, it is change or stagnate.
Fortunately innovation can be learned.
Date: March 3, 2010