Many organizations struggle with two opposing viewpoints. On the one hand, there is pressure to follow industry best practices, which is supported by a “we’ve always done it this way” mentality. On the other hand, leadership wants to take advantage of advancements in processes and technologies to drive their organization forward, encouraging the pursuit of innovation, improvement, and change.
Organizations that support a culture of innovation want employees to take the initiative and embrace change. However, some managers want to control what employees do and will stifle individual creativity, which restricts openness to change. At the same time, some employees are resistant to the uncertainty and pain that can arise from change. To break through cultural resistance to change, leadership can employ the following strategies to encourage employees to be more open to making and accepting change.
Many organizations understand the value of creative thinking, which involves coming up with original ideas. However, to encourage openness to change, you should promote divergent thinking, which involves coming up with different answers to a particular problem. This requires developing a sense of curiosity about the work and the issues that employees face. Curiosity leads to innovation, which arises from identifying different ways to solve a problem.
To encourage divergent thinking, invite employees to come up with different solutions to a current problem they face within the company or their department. Ask them to consider different ways of using current resources and space to be more efficient. Management should also repeatedly ask employees what they think about a problem, rather than offering their own solutions, to see what they come up with when pressed.
Testing is an integral part of an innovative corporate culture. However, it’s important for the employee who comes up with an idea to be responsible for testing that idea. People learn when they determine the strengths and weaknesses of their ideas, as well as how customers react to them. This form of experiential learning leads to greater understanding and more innovations.
Allow employees to take responsibility for their own testing, rather than management or specific departments. This enables them to experience the success that results from their idea, as well as learn from its failure. Giving employees the time, resources, and responsibility to test their ideas will lead to greater innovation and increased willingness to accept change.
Many athletes follow the mantra, “You win or you learn”. Treat failure as an opportunity to learn and grow. Establish baseline success and failure rates to measure employees’ work. Set high goals and normalize the fact you expect most ideas will not meet those standards. Employees can expect to be disappointed, but they should not fear failing to meet a high goal, as instilling fear can inhibit creativity.
Make it clear that innovating and attempting to hit high goals are worthwhile endeavors. Different teams and employees will succeed or fail at different rates, which is normal. Everyone should understand that each success contributes to the company’s success, and does not negate other teams’ achievements or efforts. Normalizing failure will remove the fear of innovating and prevent employees from falling back on best practices to achieve specific goals.
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Many managers and employees are resistant to cultural change because it can be a difficult and painful process. Creating an environment that invites divergent thinking, makes employees responsible for testing their ideas and supports high failure rates will help to make employees more open to change. Bringing in an experienced partner (like Nom Nom Data) can lessen the impact and reduce some of the obstacles to your employees’ adoption of cultural change.
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