Unlocking Innovation (Part V of VI): Managing change

This is a section of a six-part series of articles that focuses on unpacking the complexity of innovation and showing the reality that innovation is attainable to everyone. Our goal from this series is to spark conversations and get people to look at innovation, creativity, and leadership from a different perspective.

Change is an essential part of innovation

Change Management has become a bit of a buzzword lately. Many of us hear it and understand what it is conceptually, but do not really understand it’s importance, utility, or impact. We often think of it simply as organizational change; which is when there is a change in focus, process, or leadership. This is true, however, it is not the only way that managing change can make a difference.

When innovation is implemented; whether it is an innovate product, program, process, or approach, we need to realize that the side effect of doing something new is that we are not doing things the way we used to do them. By definition, we are abandoning the status quo and this is often one of the biggest barriers to the implementation of new and innovative ideas – people don’t like change.

The place to start: Changing Minds

Instituting innovation and new approaches into an existing system will always create pushback, for many reasons and one of the hardest things about being progressive and having a vision is getting people on your side and creating enough influence to move the ideas forward. This creates the starting place you need to institute change – changing people’s minds. Generating buy into the concept and vision, convincing people to shed their narrow perspective and accept the change in the concept phase. The first step to starting innovation is having a good sales plan – why does old = bad and new = good. What is key here is to create the buy-in by influence, not by power. Organizational change, for example, needs to come from the influence at the top, it will fail if the change is ordered. Telling your employees to change will never have the same impact as selling them on the benefits and positive impact of the change. The benefit is that as the boss they look to you for leadership, so your words carry impact naturally. This is why it is far better to gain influence than to gain power. With power, people HAVE to do what you say. With influence, people CHOOSE to do what you say. In human nature, people will always work harder if it is their choice.

Change Thinking

The next step to implementing innovative change is to change current thinking – it is about changing the way we think about failure. We touch on this our earlier article, about the ideal culture for innovation.  The key is to be open to trying new things and create maximum utility in your efforts. However, to move beyond those points when it comes to managing change you need to become comfortable with discomfort. Complacency is the kryptonite of innovation. Transition periods are often seen as a means to an end but when managing effective change. However, this creates an opportunity to create a new norm, the challenge of the improvements and excitement of the future impact could be as comfortable as the status quo used to be, and potentially become your new normal. We need to change our definition of comfort to include constant transformation. Once we do this the challenge that change brings becomes what gets us out of bed, rather than our cozy schedule and environment. What would you rather seek; adventure or seek contentment? Would you rather be better or be busy.

Changing Actions

Next, we need to incorporate the new changes into our daily tasks. For this to happen with any chance of success, changing the way we think must come first. New processes, new roles, new teams, new partnerships, and new outcomes require internal buy-in to the vision and ambitious motivation. Your actions need to be incorporated with patience, strong communication, collaboration, and transparency. You need to be patient with the unpolished nature of the process, be willing have an open dialogue between all levels and people involved, look to share ideas and responsibilities, and make sure that the accountability and the true purpose is clear and available to everyone. Openness is key here; open to mistakes, open to listening, open to sharing, and open to accessibility. Putting change management into action without transparency is setting yourself up to fail.

Change the Definition of Success

After all these steps have been done, you need to ensure you can measure the impact of the innovative change, which means your metrics or benchmarks for success need to reflect the change. Often, we forget this step and we use ideas of success that are no longer valid or reflective of the new vision and innovation. If our measurement of success is out of date then our efforts don’t add up to a triumph, they add up to disappointment. It is critical to define what success is and this needs to be considered at every step of the way. If your old definition of success was to make more money in the short term, and you went through innovative change (likely spending a fair amount of money), then your effort might be perceived as a waste of time and you should have just kept doing things the old way. But if you were looking to break into a new market, diversify your product line, and take a short-term loss of profit for a much larger long-term gain, then your innovation should be measured at those outcomes and the definitions of success, and your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), need to reflect the new definition.

The Takeaway

Managing change is about understanding all of the elements that are required to implement the change. Creating buy-in from those affected by the change is really the most critical part. The tough part is when those who are pivotal to the implementation of change are resisting the buy-in because they are unwilling to change their thinking. This is when you need to look at the risk/reward ratio of committing resources to facilitate the change in thinking versus looking to replace them with those that will embrace the change. Again, that comes down to openness. The other critical part is strong leadership. As said, effective change management comes from influence, not power. You need a leader, not just a boss, to inspire others to change minds, change thinking, change actions and change how success is defined. A strong leader with an innovative vision and open-minded teams, who are willing to buy in, is the only meaningful way to manage change and embrace innovation.


Roman 3 is an advising and solutions firm that specializes in inspiring progressive action, creating a culture of innovation, and assisting organizations in implementing transformative change. We help you build capacity, collaborate, be progressive, and grow to your full potential. For more information on our services and support reach out to us at info@roman3.ca