Don’t Wait for a Crisis to Innovate

by | Nov 11, 2019

A crisis can reveal how innovative or complacent your organisation has been. For the innovative, a crisis can be an opportunity to shine. Conversely, for the complacent a crisis is a more painful and very public experience, potentially revealing that the leadership has been asleep at the wheel.

The reluctance of leaders to prioritise innovation in their strategy is more common than you may think. In a survey of 5,000 board members in 2018, innovation was not ranked high on their list of priorities. It found that a widespread lack of board-level engagement in innovation processes could be a major blind spot and a potential liability.

Instead of waiting for a crisis to act on known problems, what is really needed is an innovation strategy…..and not quite enough time.

You need a sense of purposeful urgency.

In an era of accelerating external change, it takes constant effort to make internal changes and adapt. It means seeing innovation as a valuable asset all the time, rather than as a cyclical or periodic event. However, the reality is that complacency is commonplace.

Responsibility for innovation strategy and creating urgency rests firmly with boards and senior executives and one tactic is to share troubling data. For example, with industry service organisations one powerful way to challenge complacency is to share evidence about membership. Try using trends with the proportion of industry businesses that are not in membership as a metric – for many, it will be a confronting number.

A crisis can provide opportunities to lend urgency for implementation of a change strategy. However, it should not be your first choice. When an industry or firm is in crisis, you typically see lots of media about the troubles, with people becoming fearful, looking inwards and allocating blame.

It’s better to be creating a sense of urgency every day, rather than waiting for a crisis to innovate.

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