Monday, April 25, 2011

Great Innovators are often successful because - Personal Drivers

Personal drivers are as much about the tangible (what you know and what  you've accomplished) as it is about the intangible (who you know and how you connect with them).  Both sides are key to being successfully influential.  And you need it all.  At its core though...there are some invisible type questions I always like to ask when it comes to personal drivers...

How do you interact with others?  Do they understand how you like create, produce, learn and interact?  Do you overlap with "how they like to do things"?  Are you one of their "trusted advisers"?  As an individual what about these facets of yourself...Are you a person who gets their energy from people or from yourself?  Do you like the big picture or do you like the facts.  Are you a person of action or one who is prudent?  We all like to innovate differently.  In fact how well you overlap with someone is something that can greatly affect how well they "take to you".   If you don't get along with someone else how can you influence them or better yet get them to trust you?  As I like to say without trust you can have no innovation.  It is the foundation of a creationship (my favorite word from my good friend Robert Porter Lynch who I will post and respond to some of his thoughts shortly) a place of total trust transparency and collaboration between people.   Great innovators are not only aware of the personal drivers to make things happen.  They are aware when they don't align and can actually either adjust themselves or delegate and bring the right people to the table to help make the change go more smoothly.  When have a partnership it is about leveraging differences and trusting their value to our ability to get things done.  Without each other we can have no collaboration and I have proven many times in my career (at least to myself) that it is table steaks for innovating.  I know what I don't know and try to see who knows what I don't know...then I find them and work with them.  It is is smart and it is a proven way to succeed.  On to the personal drivers...

They have a successful track record:  Remember Data, Gut and EXPERIENCE.  This is where a person's experience with you is what gets you the credibility to make change happen more quickly.  When you succeed, people trust you.  And when they trust you it takes less to convince them to try something new because you become someone they can count on.  Whether you are successful in their mind can be a complex thing, because it could be you do things the way they like or because they actually saw the tangible value you provided.  Ever get something done, but have people still question your track record?  A successful track record is as much about how as it is about what you achieved.  Make sure you are aware of the difference because it can be an awareness you have about yourself.  You may think you have a successful track record but do they?  If they do then you have a personal driver for making change happen.  My favorite example of this deal with work I did for my friend (now close ally and mentor) John.  When I was working at innovating from the middle, John was a senior executive at my company.  He was in the middle of working on a very big project that was a high stakes game.  I took the risk to claim that I could apply social media to his problem to help him get more data that would help make a stronger case for his project.  He trusted me (because we liked to innovate in the same way) and gave me the funding to prove my point.  I executed the project with a team of people to make it more objective.  The data helped make the case stronger and John was thrilled with the risk I took, the novelty of my approach the strength of the data.  Ever since that exchange we have become close friends, he trusts my unorthodox instincts for things and has supported me both personally and professionally ever since.  He is my trusted adviser and someone who has helped me the most over the last several years.  I value him.  But I got this trust because of my successful track record in helping him AND because he understood how I like to innovate.  It made sense to him too.

They have professional credibility:  I have experience innovating...I have a track record...people see that track record and it often leads to trust in what I do.  Whether this professional credibility comes from what you studied, the certificates you hold or the respect you get in your background, the cred gets you the audience.  These personal drivers about the tangible things you did.  If I tried my hand at innovating in the law space, I would question my skills UNLESS they wanted me to think about the process by which they create new ideas.  My professional credibility is all about driving change and putting structure around it.  It is about helping get the most out of how people can work together to create and execute new opportunities.  It is NOT about innovative legalese.  I stay true to my area of expertise and then I get the credibility to drive the change.

They have strong allies/relationships:  Your network is worth its weight in gold.  This is about having personal drivers based on who you know.  How far does your network reach?  How powerful is it (power drivers)? Who within the organization can you get to?  How intimate are these relationships?  Do you they see your value (see above)?  All these things are what get you personal influence.  And this is about how you like to build relationships and how you like to network.  To have strong allies you need to do the things above, but you also need to deliver for them too.  Do you go out of your way expecting nothing from your allies.  Do you pay it forward when people need you?  These are all important aspects of creating a strong network/allies to be successful at leveraging the personal drivers.  I really believe in networking and giving and receiving.  It helps me reach farther when I need to get something done.   A good lesson here is something I have personally committed to over the past three years during the recession.  I ALWAYS go out of my way to help my allies/network get jobs.  I take personal ownership of helping my colleagues in need because I just believe it is right.  In fact, I have helped 3 or 4 people land jobs during this time and asked for absolutely nothing in return?  Why?  Because when I need those people they will be more apt to help me back later when I have need.  And if I never need them...who felt good to do it.  You would be surprised to see how many people will not go out of their way to help unless it helps them.  I think this is bad networking and it is a sure way later to hurt your ability to have the personal drivers you need to get things done.  They say a positive customer experience is shared with a few people and a negative one much more.  Same goes for building a successful network.  Treat it like gold, nurture it when it doesn't make sense and be there personally and professional for people.  It is the currency of being a successful innovator.

They have found an innovation kindred spirit:  The last personal driver is the most esoteric and the one that I love the most (it is the conceptual thinker that I am).  Ever meet someone and you just simply connect so much that you simply open up and trust.  I call this the innovation kindred spirit.  My friend Robert Porter Lynch calls it the creationship.  Either way, this is a special place that enable big things to happen quickly.  This type of synergistic moment is when you have found someone who simply get YOU and IT.  You can't explain it but we have all been involved in it.  Treasure it...recognize it and leverage it to get your ideas moving in the direction of implementation.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Great Innovators are often successful because - Influence Drivers

Data...power and now influence.  All logical places to go and you will see the nuance of their differences becomes slight, but at the end of the day if you can recognize a pattern you will be in good shape.  Obviously if you are a great seller you can get people to yes.  But being able to influence has other components besides being able to sell.  Below are some of the ways you can begin to dimensionalize influence when selling innovation beyond the direct assault approach.  That approach while powerful is often rife is long term pain.  Pain that arises because of the bodies you leave behind during the process of getting what you want. If you think about using influence you better think about when to do it and if it is worth it.  Too many times because we CAN influence to get our way, we don't THINK about its consequences.  This post if about why an innovator is successful and how to think about influence.  It does not discuss how one's bias for action can often lead them to use influence incorrectly and to their disadvantage by not thinking through it first.  

They have successfully built a supportive coalition:  Very  simple way to succeed, build a group of people who support what you want to do and usually it will happen.  This is always one of the safest ways to influence because it is about creating a collaborative wave that carries the day over time.  In fact, influencing through a supportive coalition can often be a catalytic process.  Why?  Because those who aren't interested in being the champion of change are often very lemming like in their behavior.  If push the right buttons and get the right people you will often find yourself having more people than you would think because those YOU influenced will bring who THEY can influence to the party.  And when this happens across levels rather than down, your ability to get somewhere can move so fast you might not be ready for what is expected.  Collaboration is the name of the game and supportive coalitions are the core of driving change.

They have understood others' interests:  As stated in an earlier post, negotiation is about interests and if you understand someone interests it is often much easier to bring them where you want them than if you simply think about what you want to do.  This is very important because most innovators can be very focused on getting what they want that they will ignore the needs of others.  We can be a single minded group and breaking out of that and focusing on what someone else wants can be an eye opening experience.  I find myself often thinking I know what someone else is thinking and while I am often right, when I am wrong I wanna kick myself.  Staying focused on others' interests means always trying to understand what everyone wants, thinking through how you can bring your interests in line with theirs and then build the biggest coalition you can to make it move.

They have encountered the desperate:  This is my favorite innovation principle of all when it comes to success.  Have you ever come across someone in trouble?  They have put themselves out there and they are worried they are going to fail.  Are they a political pariah?  Well, while the conventional often run, this represents great opportunity for an innovator.  Many times our ideas are about bigger things than simply a new product or service.  Many times our ideas around flexible...meaning they could fit in many places within the organization.  A person in trouble will be very easy to influence.  They will want to try anything to get out of their situation and often make a very loyal innovation partner.  And if you deliver for them when others were afraid to support them you make an ally too.  Some of my greatest ideas have come from helping the desperate.  Because you can build a coalition with someone who it is easy to understand their survive their current situation.  Sometimes they could also be someone so eager to do something that you are their shining light who can speed it up.  There are many types of desperate I guess and frankly the term should be considered loosely when working on the political grid, but always be on the lookout for the desperate because they can be your best innovation friend now and in the future.

They have access to decision makers:  If you are good you can get to decision makers and get them to move where you want them to.  This is an art, but a great one to cultivate.  For example, early in my career I used to doesn't matter when you get into work, but best action can occur after 530 when the day starts to die down.  Why?  Because many decision makers stay late.  They will notice your "commitment". And they are tired and are often chatty and willing to open their door for you at the end of the day.  And while this is certainly more a big company idea, it is nonetheless all about access.  Getting access to the right people is huge when trying to drive change.  I have always believed, however, you desire to get closer to those who can help make things happen must be genuine and must include loyalty.  That is why you get access for working with decision makers and by managing expectations and delivering.  This is what gives you access...not simply because you can talk to them will you have credibility.  Don't believe this is a phone tactic to be successful.  This is all about being genuine, honest and forthright with those who make decisions.  Use your access wisely or it will be short lived.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Great Innovators are often successful because - Power Drivers

After having the data, there is power.  Even though I used to say that "Innovation is a team sport", which it is, a friend once corrected me and, "Innovation is a contact sport".  I have thought about it a lot since he said it to me and while I am a true believer in trust, transparency and collaboration, there is little doubt that there is a lot of contact when innovating.  And sadly, sometimes the contact is bloody.  Having recently wiped a lot of blood of my face in the war of change, I think that we must be true to ourselves and realize that power plays a role in being successful at driving change.  Below are some reasons one may be able to change the game when you have used power to drive the change.

They have unseen influence:  I would say that on average an innovator's most valuable weapon is that they like to network.  Does this mean that people who don't aren't good innovators?  Absolutely not, but we are talking about politics of innovation which by its very nature is about interacting with lots of people, situations and cultures (people).  As a networker or a relationship builder, it can be incredibly powerful to have a relationship that can help you when others can't see it.  Probably one of the best examples of this is a technique I have used many times in partnership (a topic for building innovation partnerships).  If you are trying to partner with an outside organization one of the greatest ways to create unseen influence comes from your partner.  You are partnering.  You want to get something done.  You have a culture at your company.  You have a hierarchy.  You have people competing for air time.  You have people between you and the decision  makers you need to influence.  Why not simply use your close and trusting relationship with your external partner to have them use their leadership to get YOUR point across.  By trusting you external partner and having them get their senior leader to make your case you have gone around your entire organization and created unseen influence.  Utilizing your network and DELIVERING for your network gives you credibility to ask for such things in the example provided.  You must continue to think about how you can have others be your cheerleaders.  This is the hallmark of unseen influence.  Cheerleading. Having others do it for you can influence around those in your way.  But remember, this works in both directions most of the time.

They have a risk tolerant client:  Why is this related to power?  Well a risk tolerant client will often take your objective, make it their objective and help push people out of your way because they believe.  Partners who believe in the risk you are asking them to champion creates a tide that pushes problems aside.  Sure risk tolerance is merely believing, but mobilizing that belief is power.  And if you can find all the risk tolerant clients during your efforts to make something happen, think about that political wave.  Pretty powerful, pretty unstoppable, and very protective of what most might consider risky folly.

They have decision making authority:  This one is as straightforward as it reads.  If they can make the decision and they believe in you then they can make it happen...enough said.

They have created hierarchical cascade:  This is one of my favorite reasons I have succeeded.  In a previous post where I talked about the principle of BEVIA (believe, experiment, integrate, validate, adapt).  This principle explains how complex and dynamic gaining consensus can be when creating a change wave.  Essentially, just because you get the most powerful person to say yes to something, doesn't ensure you will move the mountain.  That being said,  it can create what is called hierarchical cascade.  This means that if you can get around everyone and influence those in power, they may take up your cause and with their influence get those beneath them to follow along (the cascade).   It can be a very powerful way to not only get your goal across the finish line, but also create future power for yourself because those around you will respect your ability to get things done.  In addition, you will have made a senior ally if your idea helps make things happen that are new and different.  Hierarchical cascade can be very risky (because the opposite can happen when you are wrong) but it helps build your success more substantially.

Great Innovators are often successful - Data Drivers

After spending a ton of time talking about failure when it comes to innovation, I love that we get to switch to the other side of the playing field.  We have discussed what keeps innovators from succeeding, but what makes them successful?

The next four posts delve into the four mega factors (what I believe anyway) that help innovators succeed.  The first is what I call data drivers.  I was once told by a friend that all people make decisions in three ways.  They either use data, experience or their gut.  As someone who likes rules of thumb, this was an interesting way to put it.  If this is true, than someone who gets their proverbial data thoughts together should be able to show people the value of an idea that might seem foreign to someone's day to day activities.  With the right data most people can be influenced even if they like to use either their gut or their experience. I learned to embrace the old saying from my time as a scientist...there is no bad data only data. 

They have leveraged corporate culture:  The first data driver while seemingly a bit soft is an innovator's ability to leverage the corporate culture.  Whether you are within or outside the organization who is the client for you new idea or concept, if you can understand what makes the collective tick (a very critical piece of change agent data) you stand a chance to influence them successfully.  Why?  Because culture is what people cling to most of the time as a means of saying no.  As someone who has managed alliances for over 15 years, you get to walk around the cultural block until you are exhausted.  With this experience managing partnerships, one will gain the ability if they choose to become a cultural chameleon.  When you can recognize the culture, the lingo, the process and the personalities of the collective, fitting between its cracks becomes possible.  Think about it...Have you ever known someone in your company who isn't particularly competent but has risen high because they are "political"?  This is someone who knows who to talk to, what to say and when to say it.  They leverage the corporate culture to achieve a level of success.  Doesn't this analogy contain the nuance you need to go from stubborn evangelist to sly change agent?  Think about the do's and don't of a culture and if you focus on how your idea fits the do's or your method for getting to yes makes senes to "how we do things" your odds of success go up a ton.  Even if your idea is something that is pun intended.

They have made big issues small:  Getting ahead of issues takes patience.  When making the different tangible, you must stop and think about why people would say no.  If you get ahead of this you can think through why this issues are really pretty tiny.  This takes preparation and thus data to get ahead of a big issue and solve it before you launch the innovation.  The reason this data driver is so critical is that most innovators don't like to think about the risks.  One of my bosses a long time told me that I needed to think about why things go wrong more.  He shared with me that I was great at crafting the idea, thinking through why is was a good idea, but that I didn't spend enough time thinking through why we shouldn't do it (another principle that will come up in a bit).  He said if I did that, I could be more prepared for the naysayers out there.  Whatever could kill it, get ahead of it and then kill that problem with data and you can stop them dead in their tracks before they try to stop you!

They have strong standards:  When negotiating a deal, one of the key steps is to come with a standard of legitimacy.  This means are there other precedents for why your proposal has been tried before successfully.  These standards are often loose connections to the proposal, but they do make a case for validity.  After loving this whole concept in every negotiation I have accomplished, I let it make the jump to my innovation process.  If negotiation is one of the four critical skills of an innovators (my earlier post) then the principles of the process should scale.  This is a key part of idea/innovation development...think of a standard that works for the situation you are in.  Can you connect it and better yet can you think of one that relates to something the person you are influencing actually did?  If you present them with a standard that would make them a hypocrite wouldn't that seem to help you make the case?  Standards give history and history is a means of how people make decisions...leverage their need for history well and you will make it happen faster.

They have a clearly articulated plan:  They say the devil is in the details, sadly that is true (especially when you are conceptual thinker like me).  Get a clearly articulated plan together by being succinct and clear. Simple, true and the hallmark of making it easier for them to follow the logic of an idea that may be way out there. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Great Innovators are Often Successful because - Introduction

The last several posts have focused primarily on why innovators fail.  Knowing what can stop you is the best place to start when figuring out how to succeed.  On the other hand, knowing how to look for signs that can make you successful is another set of innovation weapons that you must arm yourself with as you battle the political forces of Corporate Culture.  Just as seeing the warning signs is all about seeing how the outside world perceives YOU, creating one's success is about going inside yourself to ensure YOU are ready for the outside world.

Being an innovator is so much about challenging convention.  When you do this your internal and external radar needs to be up at all times.  You need to get aware of those around you and constantly be aware of yourself.  This is at the core of why great innovators are successful.  I believe it is being a life learner, who has the perseverance to challenge oneself to be a cultural chameleon, human rubber band or whatever you want to call it.

A good story of this is happening to me right now.  Although I have lived with myself for so many years, I am astounded at how even as I grow older I can still find extremely profound observations about how I do things and how they are perceived by others.  I mean big stuff...the kinds of things that if you can create "coping mechanisms" for, will pay big dividends in your ability to work with others.  As a disciple of the Idea Connection Systems ISPI (a topic for another day...go look at, I have come to think of my innovation profile as something that is fixed with it being up to me to find ways to challenge myself to be flexible.  Having awareness of myself and having been trained in how to read others "profiles" or habits, I am learning over time to see interactions and recognize what I am doing wrong.

Just recently, I realized something very interesting.  As a person who has a profile of creating big ideas, being visionary and unfortunately divergent (in my mind anyway) that I am person who loves concepts (thus this very conceptual blog).  In fact, I am realizing that while I have successfully created and delivered big ideas that drive business results throughout my career, as a change agent I often do not get recognized for the small things I sometime do.  And while I am used to this...I think I recently learned one important link.  As a conceptual thinker, when someone asks me to communicate my thoughts, I often answer with a conceptual explanation.  Within the context of my concept is a very tangible output that will deliver something great.  And while I am very focused in my explanation of that concrete end state, I need the conceptual framework to think about how to get there.  Because I describe a conceptual framework to talk about an end result, my ideas sound very theoretical.  That is not my intent, but how I create and ultimately produce.   I need to do a better job I realized, because unless my counterpart is like me I can come across as out there...and that is frustrating.  This is a great example of why it is so important to be self aware at all times.  If you want to be a change agent, the road can be difficult.  You can be perceived as contrarian, out in left field, risky, misunderstood or whatever.  But if you remember that when you point the finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you, you will have the moxie to change.

This learning is helping me think through why I have to do a better job of communicating when the audience is the opposite of me...convergent, concrete and interested in results. My lesson for myself...I need to think FIRST about what I am going to deliver and focus hard on describing that.  I just need to keep the conceptual framework to myself.  That is my is my personal fuel and no one else's.   I

This is the moment when innovators because good and good innovators become great.  WE ALWAYS MUST RECOGNIZE TO CHALLENGE OURSELVES.  And now the CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK for those who love concepts about why great innovators are often successful.

Some followups and final thoughts...

1.  Go check out if you want to learn how you like to create, interact, learn and produce innovation
2.  Think about how you are going to CONSTANTLY challenge yourself to improve your awareness of yourself...being successful in my opinion starts here
3.  If you like concepts they can help guide you to analyze things to then be able to CONSTANTLY challenge yourself.

Politiics Kill Innovation - Personal Issues

The most obvious roadblock to an innovator is always personal problems.  Regardless of how obvious this particular post can be, it is important to at least dimensionalize the issue by splitting some of the hairs that make it happen.  As a good friend of mine taught me...the elements of destruction are present at creation.  How does this relate?  Essentially, knowing what is lying in wait to destroy you because of who your are, what your idea represents or the threats the new poses to the people and organization, one needs rules of thumb to help them "see" what lies in wait upon the road to success.  This post will be short because the breakdown of personal issues is obvious.

They have issues with you personally:  If someone doesn't like you chances are they won't like your ideas.

They have allies with issues with you:  A touch more subtle, but sometimes you can lose your innovation head when it isn't your partner with the problem, but those lurking behind them who don't really value what you are doing.  They can then INFLUENCE and destroy support you have.  What is very difficult in this situation is it is like an innovation time bomb waiting to go off.  For example, you have a great idea. You go to a partner/stakeholder/decision maker and sell them the idea.  Let's say they are a person of action and relationships and they say I LOVE THIS IDEA let's move forward.  Then two days later they are in the cafeteria having lunch with someone who doesn't really believe in the way you do things.  They say...whoa be careful that innovator doesn't always do things the "right" way or perhaps its I don't know if I would trust them.  Before you know it they have influenced your partner and you have started moving forward.  This is a common and bad scenario that can happen to any of us.  Sometimes the danger lies around you and not in front, thinking beyond the the partner and the direct line of those who will support your idea is something we often forget to do.

They have issues with people on their turf:  Sadly, not everyone is a collaborator (again another topic). Some, actually, most people are self-serving when it comes to their career.  And in some cases it makes sense, I gotta provide for my family too.  That being said, as an innovator we are often very collaborative.  I frankly don't understand this "bad behavior".  I stand for trust and collaboration.  These are the hallmarks of an innovation culture based upon trust.  Be aware if people are territorial and don't want you there, they will keep you from succeeding.  In this case, if it isn't there idea or they feel they own it they will react very negatively and try to stop you.

They distrust your motives or interests:  Hey, relationships matter.  Distrust can come from a number of things, but usually it is based upon how we like to innovate and the differences that exist between people.  If you are a visionary who likes concepts and they are concrete and need to see things you will not be speaking the same language and thus they might distrust your motives or interests.  Be aware of your differences with people and make sure you work on building trust with those around you.  Every interaction counts and your behaviors today can effect your ability to influence tomorrow.  If people don't trust you their behavior towards you will be negative and ultimately they will not support you or better yet try to stop you.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Politics Kill Innovation - Interest Issues

After poor influence and risk aversion comes the next reason politics kills innovation...Interests Issues.  If you read my earlier post on what skills are critical to be a great innovator, you will see one of the key skills is negotiation.  I had the pleasure of holding a job early in my career where I got do create, do and manage a lot of deals (a topic for another time) particularly licensing agreements.  During what I consider one of the most critical times of learning during my journey to change agent, I received both formal and informal training around principled negotiation. In my opinion, negotiation is a science more than an art.  Everyone likes to say they know how to negotiate, but after learning on the job AND learning the actual process for negotiating I started to see the value everywhere I looked.  The first key step in principled negotiation centers around the concept of interests (may be redundant for many).  That being said, understanding interests is one of the most important lessons.  To align all (using operational definitions...another key innovation skill) interests in my view are taking the time to understand what your partner wants and is simply interested in.  The thing about interests is that sometimes they are overt (explicitly said) and other times they are implicit (not really told to you).  In any negotiation, aligning your interests with your partners is how deals happen.  When it comes to innovating, however, using this principle to help you get your ideas across is the secret sauce to getting things going and maintaining one's momentum throughout the process.  Interests change as innovation's are born, grow and thrive, so being aware of this at all times is critical and if you don't will lead to problems throughout the innovation lifecycle

How do interest issues get in the way?

They don't care about it:  If those around you don't care about your innovative ideas, they their interests are not your interests and thus they won't support what you are doing.  The ebb and flow of people's interests need to align and if people don't care about what you are doing you can't expect the to support your efforts. 
They don't have the same agenda and won't work with you.  Does this mean they will work hard to stop you in your tracks? Maybe it depends on how much their interest mesh with yours.  When they don't care about it they don't care about you.

They don't have the same agenda:  The politics in your office is about agenda and what each of us want to accomplish.  If those around you don't have an agenda aligned with yours they can often come out against it strongly because they may be fighting for the same resources dollars or simply will do whatever it takes to see you fail.  Not have the same agenda can be deadly because it can bring the worst behavior out in others around you.  If your agenda is to collaborate for instance and some nearby wants to build an empire, this two personal agenda are like gas near a fire.  The collaborative agenda is meant to empower while the empire agenda is meant to control.  How can they go together?  How will they both survive.  You can be doing "good" for the organization, but those who seek to do evil can be doing something much more detrimental.  Either way, it is this type of political misalignment that stops great ideas cold.

They don't have the capacity to support it:  Sometimes people around you can understand your interests, but they simply don't have the time or resources AT THAT MOMENT to help you.  This is important to recognize because if you don't understand this it can lead to aggravating a relationship.  Knowing that this is happening kills your opportunity but it also is an opportunity.  If people can't support it because of capacity you simply need to find another way around the situation or be patient (a virtue of success to be discussed)

They don't see the value versus other work:   Very similar to capacity, seeing the value of your idea versus their other work is another way to lose ground in your quest to get things new implemented.  In this case, however, you have the power to explain the value.  Unfortunately, many times we as innovators communicate value in different ways than those who "manage" the store.  So you better brush up on why those who may have influence can see the value versus the other work they do.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Politics Kill Innovation - Risk Aversion

The second reason politics will kill innovation is due to Risk Aversion.  This one is easy to understand as all of us whether we are pushing the envelope a little or a lot have encountered a scenario where risk hurt our chances for driving change.  Risk aversion is something that is actually in many people's DNA.  It is simply a factor that is built differently in all of us.  The most important thing is to recognize when you and the person in front of you have a differing sense of risk.  If you can begin to recognize when the issue is sitting in front of you, you will be able to get better prepared to handle this situation.  Below are a few things to realize around what could happen in a risk aversion scenario so you can think a few steps ahead of your fearful opponent.

They have been influenced:  Be wary of this.  Many times we believe we have the cat in the bag (because those who like the change fight don't see risk) only to find out your sponsor changes their mind.  This could be simply a third party who you can't see has been messing in your innovation kitchen.  Think about the person you want to get on board and then think about who else could be lurking in the wings reminding them that their passion for your idea is really foolish.  Forgetting who is around the person you are trying to influence is a surefire way to get blindsided by the fear of change.

They have a boss who is afraid of it:  This is a little easier to deal with as there is only one person to be aware of.  In this case, however, the road block is much more serious because they can stop things dead and for good.  Always consider who is the decision maker behind the client is before you engage in your quest.

They fear the risk of innovation:  Most of these principles make sense and are actually pretty obvious, but getting granular can also help you analyze your failures when you go back in for more.  Sometimes it is just your client who is afraid.  And if they are the doorway to your idea getting life, you need to know it and think about how to deal with it.  Let's face people who see risk more than you will definitely fear what you believe is a perfectly sane plan. 

They have had a bad experience:  There are cases however, where the bad taste of innovation still sits on their tongue.  They have been hurt by trying before and won't get hurt again.  If you are not connected to your partner's history, you might misinterpret their NO for something far more difficult...the scars of trying.  We have all had it and as we all make decision using either gut, data or experience, we cannot ignore how experience can stop new ideas before they started.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Politics Kill Innovation - Poor Influence

 As one thinks about driving change within their organization you need to first understand what kills innovation.  The first overarching area that seems to stop innovation in its tracks is Poor Influence.  Why?  Well, having great ideas is just that...great, but getting others to understand why those ideas are great and more importantly take up your cause to see those ideas live is another story altogether.  If you are in the change business, getting clear on why you are not influencing others is critical to learning how to do it.  Taking ownership of this outage in your journey is critical to learning how to combat your weakness.  My good friend once told me that innovation isn't a team sport it is a contact sport.  I never used to believe this, but until you are in the arena for a while and see how quickly you can get crushed, you will begin to believe.  So what does poor influence mean when it comes to innovation failure?

They don't understand it:  If they don't get it you don't get their support simply put.  Making sure that people understand what they hell you are talking about seems pretty obvious, but getting clear that this is a real thing to be on the lookout for when selling is another.  Always keep you radar up to know when your potential partner is lost in your vision, concept or approach (I have already written on the concept/approach principle earlier)

They don't see the value for them:  Maybe your potential partner does "get" what you are selling them but there is no good reason for them to go out on a limb for you.  As an innovator, when this happen this it is like getting stabbed twice, because if they don't understand it, you can accept that maybe you need to do better or they just don't get it.  If they don't see value, this selfish moment on your potential partners' part hurts because as most innovators believe in trust and collaboration, this self serving behavior sucks.  However, it is real and if you can create value for people they will come along...

They don't believe you are right:  This scenario is a test of wills and when it happens you either need to deal with the issues (what problems they may have with you or your idea) and go back in for a second round.  The other option is to build around your opponent (which will come later in why innovators are successful).

They don't have enough data:  While this is a common issue, knowing what data someone needs before they can support your idea can be an easy or long road depending on how they like to innovate.  But be aware for sure of this issue because unless you can meet the data hurdle set for you, your effort can stop dead in its tracks...