Everyone knows they should be proactive about change. Everyone says “We need to innovate before the anticipated crisis hits us.” Even so, no one acts until they’re finally forced to. Why? Well, when people use the word “we’, they invariably mean someone else besides themselves. In other words, we see little real innovation today because few people are ready to own the issues. There always seems to be something more pressing, like this quarter’s results or a budget crisis.
That’s the lament of Professor Costas Markides, speaking last September at Cordial, the annual leadership event hosted by Cordys. Professor Markides teaches at the London Business School (Strategic and International Management) and is the author of Fast Second: How Smart Companies Bypass Radical Innovation To Enter And Dominate New Markets. (The book, apparently, advocates letting others take the risk of invention so smart companies can exploit them when innovation is safer.)
To overcome the challenge of change inertia, innovation leaders must inspire stakeholders to assume ownership when they see change is necessary. And that requires more than just pointing to a list of good reasons for change. As mentioned, people already have reasons to change. But they don’t do anything because of all the immediate problems in their face. What’s required is the extra effort and risk to credibility that comes with a leader taking a strong stand, owning a problem and creating what Markides calls a “positive crisis”, even if it makes others uncomfortable.
Markides suggested five strategies forward-thinking companies need to embrace if they’re serious about change and innovation.
Professor Markides’ Five strategies of agile companies
- build an early monitoring system to identify future changes early enough (empower frontline workers to point to needed change)
- treat change as both threat and opportunity (while it’s important to see opportunity in crisis, it’s also important to not lose the sense of urgency)
- create positive crises to energize people into active questioning — analytical appeals are not enough
- respond to changes faster by utilizing the help of outsiders
- get everyone in the organization to adopt the behaviors that encourage agility and responsiveness to change - institutionalize these behaviors
Professor Markides’ 48 minute presentation is available on the Cordys site: Organizational Agility: The Foundation for Driving Business Transformation