Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Are We All Dancing in Step

The Coming of Change

Somewhere out there is a bullet with your Company’s name on it. Somewhere out there is a competitor, unborn and unknown, that will render your strategy obsolete. You cannot dodge the bullet. You are going to have to shoot first. You are going to have to out-innovate the innovators.

I have used this line in a number of Leadership Innovation Workshops that we have run, and whilst there is a well recognised need that innovation is critical to future survival, there is apathy to the need for the right angle turn leadership needs to commit to in order to make innovation the oxygen of the business.

I was reminded recently, when talking to a large client about their change programme, how flawed our thinking can be when we become insulated and full of self importance within large corporate monoliths. My client who is a very senior player in a big brand UK technology company, released that the investment community felt that breaking their business up would realise greater returns than retaining it as one entity. However as he scenario-planned how to resist that challenge his belief set drove him to conclude that realigning the structure would stave off outside attack whilst forgetting completely that people, their emotions, skill and competence can enhance or derail change in an instant.

As we look into the future there is a black hole that will undoubtedly suck large numbers of businesses into oblivion, and challenge those who remain to deal with change like we have never encountered it before. Change and its impact is something leaders pontificate about, when implementing things that affect others and not them. Change is not something that you do to others, but something that is embraced by all if its impact is to be sustainable and impactful.

However we cannot tell people to embrace and get on board whichever is the latest change programme leaving the station. The last hundred years have seen the evolution of business leadership range from Frederick Taylor's principals of segmenting work into isolated functions, through Deming's continuous quality improvement programmes, to chaos and complexity theory that view organisations as self-evolving and organising learning organisations. We have heard about the need for change. The need for change is used by many as a way of covering for incompetence but that is a story for another day. We have listened to educators and futurists tell us about the need to embrace change and to learn to deal with ambiguity and the speed of change. All of this has been built on the premise that we were anchored in the present and that we could incrementally manage the transition, and educate ourselves to adapt and reshape; these scenarios are flawed, and those who apply innovation and change to their current systems/applications/models and people are building upon old world thinking and are doomed to failure. My belief is that the chaos theory needs to be applied to our current business models/practices to achieve an organisational paradigm that will represent the next step in the collective evolution of next practice business. I contend that chaos intrapreneurs are the new wave crafters of next generation business models. The old definition of an intrapreneur was a person within a large corporation who takes direct responsibility for turning an idea into a profitable finished product through assertive risk-taking and innovation .

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