Challenging the Status Quo

“Group and organizational dynamics tend to pull organizations toward average or below average performance.  Psychological inertia tends to make innovation unlikely.”

“The status quo tends to defeat meaningful change because people are constrained by their basic nature and the “rules” of the environment they work in – Said another way, people don’t like change because it upsets their world and causes chaos.  Every system strives hard to maintain itself and resist change.”

[Chaun Mikuleza]

This past week I was in Milwaukee for a series of senior leadership meetings.  A key topic of our meetings was around the continued transformation of the business to one that can operate as a “fast and agile company”.  This week’s quotes are from a presentation one of my colleagues gave in those meetings around the importance of developing a “culture of change”.  They struck me as worth sharing with you, as I have always embraced the concept of change.

Change is never an easy thing.  And yes, there must be a balance to how much change you push.  But in truth, change is necessary.  Innovation cannot occur without change…without challenging the status quo.  Without it, organizations are doomed to gravitate toward mediocrity.

I can recall past resistance to change in many of the organizations I’ve worked for and with – be it technology, new processes, or simply changes to the organizational structure.  “Stop changing things and let us catch our breath”, and “why would we need to do that…we already have a good process” were two of the many responses I recall.  But looking back, there is no question those changes were beneficial to those organizations.

If an organization is to truly become a market leader in its industry, it must evolve.  It must change.  And it must create a “culture of change.”

From Ideas Come Answers

“From perspective comes clarity.  From clarity comes clear thinking.  From clear thinking come ideas.  And from ideas come answers.”

[Andy Andrews]

By now you are beginning to see a theme emerge around innovation as an “institutionalized” process for organizational success.  I’ve been saving this leadership quote for a few months now because I believe it speaks to the concept of innovation, particularly the importance of perspective when driving innovation.  What I love about this quote is how it chains the importance of starting with perspective if you hope to end with answers.  So let’s speak to the concept of perspective.

What is perspective?  Webster’s dictionary had two definitions I thought relevant in this case:

  • The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance
  • The interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed (point of view)

So what does perspective have to do with innovation, solving problems, or gaining answers?  The answer is: everything.  Relevance.  Relationship.  Priority.  Point of View.  Before you can even begin to develop ideas that lead to answers, you have to gain perspective and clarity on the issue.

Think of how Apple has revolutionized the MP3 player, cell phone, and tablet market.  To be fair, they didn’t invent any of these devices.  The iPod, iPhone and iPad are all variants of technology that existed far before Apple created them.  But what Apple focused on almost entirely was perspective.  The perspective of their user.  How their customers would consume information.  How their customers might use their products.  So they had to put themselves in the shoes of that customer.  They had to start with perspective.  And I think we’ll all agree, Apple products are cool because of “how” you use them. Because of how they interface with you.

This is why it was so important for an organization to institutionalize innovation across the company.  Each of you has a unique perspective.  Many of you work directly with and beside your customers.  And in doing so you gain perspective – the perspective of those customers.  That is so important.  For any business to successfully deliver on the promise of its offerings it must start with that perspective.