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Innovation and Change: Breaking The Rules

We often think of innovation as creativity, but as Harvard professor Theodore Levitt points out, the difference between innovation and creativity is the difference between thinking about getting things done in the world and getting things done. Creativity thinks up new things, but being innovative does new things.

Innovation drives the heart of every exceptional business. It continually poses the question, What stands in the way of my customer getting what he wants from my business? For the innovation to be meaningful, it must always take the customers point of view. At the same time, innovation focuses your business on its critical essentials. It should make things easier in the operation of your business; otherwise, it is not innovation, but complication. Being innovative helps your business identify itself and establish its individuality. This skill, developed within your business and your people, constantly asks, How can we do this better/best?

In that regard, I think of innovation as the best way of skill. It produces a high level of energy in every organization within which it is nurtured, fed and stimulated. This energy, in turn, feeds everyone the organization touches: its employees, customers, suppliers, lenders, and investors. In an innovative organization, everyone grows.

Peter Drucker defines innovation as a change that creates a new dimension of performance. Leaders can create environments, give people the tools, and set the expectations to make innovation part of daily work. They should take the time to explain to their teams that they must abandon practices that no longer work.

While great leaders in the world might seem to have little in common, they all excel at turning every team members talent into palpable performance and they do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. Leaders know that the business climate is in permanent flux and that different approaches to lead people are necessary. They must be open to new opportunities, find ways to be innovative, and be willing to change.

Last year Trinzic Properties hired Leanne Stables to revive the Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood. In order to create new and better ways to operate, instead of luring tourists as originally planned, Stables shifted the marketing emphasis to attract locals who were out for dinner, a movie or going to a night club as well as those who would shop while in the area. Amazingly, foot traffic increased and there were a lot more people hanging around. They took a Center that was clearly lacking something and injected a different element, making the Center a whole lot better.

With innovation and change, Stables turned the focus of the Center from retail to entertainment and sales increased by 11% in six months. In addition, they began a program in which patrons of the nearby Hollywood Bowl and Pantages Theatre can park at Hollywood & Highland and catch a shuttle to either venue. After the show, they are back to the Center where they might linger over dinner or drinks. Companies that dare to explore innovation and change, implementing creative programs such as this one, will experience a new level of effectiveness and additional streams of revenue.

As leaders release the power of innovation, they must also be constantly adapting policies, procedures, and even processes to make room for these dynamic changes. Here are seven ideas to consider when implementing innovation and change in your organization:

1. Vision and Goals The best way to predict the future is to create it. Do not hesitate to break virtually every rule held sacred by conventional wisdom. Develop goals and measurements that reinforce innovation and change.

2. Old vs. New Rules Eliminate rules and policies that hinder the change and create new ones that reinforce the desired way of operating. The old principle that states, if it is not broken, do not fix it, has never been effective. A visionary leader will break it and fix it by creating a new and better way to do it.

3. Training A great leader excels at turning each team members talent into performance. Replace training that reinforces the old way of doing things with new training.

4. Rewards and Recognition Find the right fit for each person so that rewards and recognition are based on performance. Make rewards specific to the change goals that have been set. Recognize individual and team contributions to making the changes work.

5. Communications Deliver communications in new ways to show commitment to innovation and change. Use multiple channels to deliver consistent messages to everyone in the organization, at all stages during the transition: before, during and after.

6. Environment Make sure the environment reflects the change. Create an atmosphere that fosters innovation and change. Leaders should allow the team to make lots of tries and consequently suffer some failure or the organization won't learn.

7. Organizational structure The structure should reinforce operational changes. Define the right outcomes, rather than the right steps. Combine overlapping divisions, eliminate duplication, re-organize around customers as opposed to functions.

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