What We Need To Understand About Innovation

Sometimes what we fail to understand about a thing, is that it’s not always the thing itself, that inhibits us from moving that thing forward…

When we begin to understand that innovation is as much about change as it is about the novel and new, we will be better equipped to move it forward, as individuals, teams and organizations.

And while this is but a small detail, it pays back in big dividends.

When we alter our lens.  When we adjust our perspective.  When we understand that innovation is much more than a novel idea or a new invention, we will be better prepared to approach innovation from a whole, rather than just in parts.

This altering and adjusting will ultimately determine how successful we are with innovation.  It will determine our effectiveness in gaining not only interest, but adherents to our ‘new’.  In the end, it will be our ability or inability to move people forward with an innovation, to push it towards a tipping point, that will determine the level of acceptance we achieve with any innovation within our organization.

What we often fail to understand, is that innovation is as much about power, as it is about the novel and new.

Think about it like this…

  • Innovation inevitably requires change.
  • Change tends to disrupt the status quo.
  • Innovation, in its disruption, transfers power.
  • Causing contention and pushback…adopters and resisters.

Which is a very important dynamic we need to acknowledge and understand as we move forward with any type of innovation.

Too often, we get so wrapped up in an idea, in the work of pushing forward with the novel and new, that we lose sight of this part of the innovation process.

We fail to notice the power transfer that can and will occur with the innovation.  Which is a small detail with mighty ramifications.

According to Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham…”Social communities tend to strive for equilibrium and actively push back when someone proposes to change the system. Innovators must lead them past their natural resistance to change.”

As Denning and Dunham add, “One way to understand the tendency toward resistance is that proposed changes alter the configuration of power in the network.”

And it is not just that resistance will come, rather…

“It is important to anticipate where opposition will come from and make moves to neutralize it…”

When we understand that leading innovation, is also about leading change, we tend to put a new lens and a new perspective on the process.  We begin to understand that people are not always adverse to the innovation itself, rather, the change that it invokes in their lives and their organization.

As well as the power shifts that it creates.  

Remember, innovation leads to change, change disrupts the status quo, which leads to power shifts…power shifts that create winners and losers in the process.  And eventually, adopters and resistors.

Understanding and acknowledging this dynamic is vital.  Sometimes we pull the plug on an innovation, thinking that people are not finding value in the ‘new’, when in fact, it is the change and disruption that is causing the pushback and disharmony.

Remember, the status quo will bristle and recoil continually throughout any change process.  The important piece will be to determine if that recoil is due to the nature of the innovation…or due to the disruption and power shifts that the innovation is initiating.  Which, in the end, will be vital to determining if the innovation is worth the time and action required to push it to acceptance levels.

Just remember to ask yourself these two questions throughout the process…

  • Is it the innovation itself?
  • Or is it the disruption and power shifts that are causing the resistance?

Determining the answer to those two questions will be imperative in moving any type of innovation forward.


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