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The Courage to Change the Company

There are few companies that really innovate. Sometimes because the entrepreneur or manager is too busy with the core business and to solve everyday issues (instead, we need to learn to delegate, “stop” and think with a perspective view).

Other times the underlying problem is that change processes do not start in one’s company because they are too “in love” with one’s business model in which for years “we have always done the same things”, also with a certain satisfaction. Only the thought of transforming one’s production cycle generally creates panic for the entrepreneur, let alone tackling new markets that are unknown, so one prefers to preserve the status quo by trusting in better times, not taking the “downward path” of one’s own too seriously company and not considering that it could become irreversible if strategic decisions are not taken as soon as possible.

In other cases, there is a lack of a leader who can create a new work environment in which people can think and work together differently.

Instead, one must have the courage to change the “skin” of one’s company.

Certainly, starting a process of change requires strong conviction, first of all on the part of the entrepreneur or manager who wants to implement it, enthusiasm in transmitting their decision to collaborators, highlighting the positive aspects that this change will bring, and putting those who “will undergo” this transformation in the conditions of reaping benefits, not only economic but also of professional growth.

The entrepreneur and the management must deeply analyze their company and, based on the consequent evaluations and analyzes, have the courage to make important decisions for change – even radical ones – in a medium / long-term perspective, without falling into the trap of everyday life and of working day by day undergoing external events, but striving to be the precursors of tomorrow.

Innovation and change requires courage, vision, and method, even if deciding to initiate a change remains an act of freedom, awareness, and ambition.

Everyone knows that planning is no longer enough in the company today. The increase in complexity requires organizations to have new, more agile and flexible skills to cope with shorter-term changes and the same unforeseen events, which by their nature cannot be planned. Faced with new problems, in fact, new and useful solutions are needed, encouraged by a new leadership capable of juggling the paradoxes of innovation itself: structure versus improvisation, individual versus group, performance versus learning.

And the classic leader who presents his own strategic vision and inspires the organization to follow and implement it can be useful when a problem or a change already has a clear solution in front of it, but it is counterproductive if one must give original answers to a new problem or to a new scenario. In this case, the innovation leader must help create a climate, a context where people are available and have the ability to think and work together differently, extracting the individual fractions of genius from each and then combining them into a ‘ innovative work.

For these reasons, I would like to suggest three main organizational skills that cannot be missing if you want to innovate:

Collaboration between employees

At the base of the collaboration is the belief, confirmed by numerous empirical researches, that innovation is not the result of an isolated genius, the so-called “flash of genius”, but arises from the interaction between several people with ideas, points of view, and different experiences. The leader must foster that creative friction, also called “cognitive conflict”, which leaves aside personal judgments and emotional reactions, and instead focuses on the confrontation-clash of ideas and proposals, from whose friction innovative sparks can emerge. Innovation is therefore a collective work, the result of a shared process.

Learning from the discoveries made

Process yes, but not entirely planned and regulated by steps, roles, and functions. Given a frame of reference on which there is no compromise, in order to solve new problems in an innovative way the organization must be allowed to make trial and error, to make mistakes and apparently, wastes time. In fact, innovation requires a mindset that accepts to continuously explore, try, learn, modify and try again (interactive process).

This is why we need a leader who has no qualms about listening and considering all the proposals, even retracing his steps, for example by re-evaluating an idea that was initially discarded because it was deemed irrelevant or impossible to implement.

Ability to make “integrated” decisions.

The integrative approach is the third way with respect to a solution imposed with winners and losers and with respect to the compromise between different options or points of view, generally unsatisfactory for anyone. The integrative choices, on the other hand, associate ideas that previously seemed to be in opposition to each other, arriving at a better solution.

The leadership of innovation actively promotes this creative process, avoiding to reject the apparently conflicting options, and indeed favoring mutual refinement and stimulation to arrive at a more innovative outlet.

This takes time for discussion and testing with trial and error. In fact, each phase of a project is subject to revision until the last moment, but for this purpose, a leadership is needed that helps to overcome resistance and favors the experimentation of different approaches without prejudice, while respecting some fixed points, such as budget and lead times.

These are the paradoxes that the innovation leader must manage, which is not an easy task and requires a good dose of courage.

For this reason, few companies are able to truly innovate. Comments are really appreciated! 

Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

6 COMMENTS

  1. “The leadership of innovation actively promotes this creative process, avoiding to reject the apparently conflicting options, and indeed favoring mutual refinement and stimulation to arrive at a more innovative outlet.” . Well said , Dr Aldo Delli Paoli , there is always a need for a dynamic innovative change , the leadership process backed by a strong Innovation Intelligence coupled by a daring courage to overcome the risks with strong determined approach , which would create an interesting patterns of a change as a motivational force for better refined productivity is a progressive step for higher values of the company … Excellent article and a great stimulus to adopt Innovative Leadership . I agree with splendid comments of Dr Ali Anani…

  2. Thanks for your timely intervention.
    We need to find the right way to innovate by changing even if the love for what we have built makes us delude that, ultimately, it is not necessary to change.
    innovation and transformation occur YES thanks to new technologies, but only if they are associated with a robust business model capable of connecting the new technology (or solution) to a real market need, then they are able to generate and retain value .
    In practice, the “big picture” that we must have in mind is the vision towards which we want to go. The business model is the realization of how this vision will be able to generate value.
    Technology (usually) is a substantial and fundamental part of this vision, but it must be integrated into the ecosystem in an effective and efficient way. In other words, we must identify: the channels capable of bringing value to our customers, the processes capable of generating the results, the resources necessary to move the machine and the value for the customer generated by this ecosystem. All this is entirely enclosed in the business model.

    • YES thanks to new technologies, but only if they are associated with a robust business model capable of connecting the new technology (or solution) to a real market need, then they are able to generate and retain value .
      This is very sound Aldo. Technology does not think for us.

  3. Excellent post Aldo.

    You touch upon an important issue- innovation and change and their relationship.
    Conventional work or rules may not lead to change. You highlighted this “one must have the courage to change the “skin” of one’s company.”

    To innovate is to have the courage to change and move out from the basin of love of what we do currently. Companies that insisted on doing what they do well and make it better were overtaken by new technologies.
    If a company does not change new tchnologies will will lead to its phasing out.

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