"All I am Saying is Give Innovation a Chance"

Licking my wounds after a few recent encounters, I’m trying to understand why business leaders find it difficult to use innovation as a way out of recession.

OK, no one can run a business on fresh air so the number one priority for a business in crisis must always be to focus on cash flow, reducing costs if necessary.

Once that is done, Innovation is the obvious next step – Isn’t it? Well it is to me, here’s why:

  •  The old way of working is part of the problem that has put the business at risk. Just doing more of the same in a crisis situation is unlikely to resolve the situation.
  • Innovation provides a positive focus that will reinvigorate an embattled team. It’s amazing how quickly this erases all the bad feeling and uncertainties surrounding a redundancy situation.
  • Tapping into the goodwill of everyone involved reduces resistance to change and makes more radical change possible.

Enlightened leaders take the attitude “Never Waste a Good Crisis”. They are determined to come out of the recession stronger and more resilient.

With so many benefits, why is innovation rejected?

A self help book called “:59 Seconds” by Professor Wiseman has given me an insight to this question. Unusually this self help book backs up its recommendations with solid research. The books sub-title “Think a little, change a lot” is very much in line with Do-little’s philosophy “Do a little, achieve a lot”.

Putting aside my skills as an influencer and my poor timing, my research shows a few possible explanations.

Risk sensitivity:  

Leaders coping with the survival of their business go into a special mode, where they tend to put their blinkers on and focus solely on the problems. In this single minded state they become oversensitive to the risks involved with innovation. Hence opportunities are rejected without really being considered.

No money & resources is a common excuse for not considering innovation. If the 3rd sector took this attitude nothing would ever be achieved. It really is a choice. In many situations goodwill and imaginative approaches can more than compensate for a limited budget.

Revert to type behavioural patterns:  

There is lots of evidence of this bad change. The construction industry has for years been introducing more collaborative ways of working that share the risk and benefits. People are reporting many lowest bid type opportunities where the customer is dictating terms. This in the end is bad for both parties.

On an individual basis this can lead to suggestions being interpreted as criticisms, hence a negative outcome for everyone.

Are you a leader handling a crisis?

Here are a few things you can do to help restore the balance.

  • Your thinking and behaviour has been affected by the crisis situation. This has an impact on everyone around you. Just being aware of this will help.
  • A trusted mentor will also support you through the crisis.
  • If this is not enough then maybe consult a behavioural expert.

To misquote the John Lennon song “All I am saying is give innovation a chance”.