Introducing innovation in organizations is hard: your employees seem so suspicious of the innovation.
CEO’s know that their organizations must innovate to stay relevant and succeed. Other functional heads (CxO’s) also understand the innovation imperative. And this applies to the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) ,Chief Supply Officer (CSO) or the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) etc. These organizational leaders cannot understand why getting a new thing started is so difficult. And why they do not see the benefits flowing in- simply because of employee reluctance in implementation and “buy-in.”
Innovative B2B marketers also despair when they face suspicion and skepticism after all the proposals,presentations and training that is done. And yet the organization continues in its old ways.
There is lots of research on this inherent reluctance to try something new and potentially better. For example, your organizational climate must encourage innovation and if you have a product champion who goes after everybody then people start “buying in”.
To break it down, here are two questions for CEO’s and B2B Marketers to ask as they try to overcome this “suspicion” of innovation:
- How does the innovation fit into perceptions of their “real work” : As CEO or CIO (Chief Information Officer) you might buy a great software system and then be appalled at the rate of use one year later. Why are 80% people hardly using the system? The trouble is that they don’t see using the new system as part of their”real work”. Perhaps sufficient training and explaining was not done to start with and there was no regular monthly follow-up, at least till everybody got on board.
- So what is this perceived “real work “? Whenever you ask someone to do something new and different – you are taking them off their routine because you believe that the “new” routine will be more innovative and productive. However, a person on a routine in an organization got there because of different signals she/he received over years! Doing that routine has given the employee job security, good performance evaluations and very importantly work relationships and friends.
If you are say a manufacturing materials user, you do one part of an existing process data entry in manufacturing. Your counterpart in accounting knows exactly what you mean. Because you have discussed and clarified questions over lunch at the company cafeteria in the past. The new process is either not clear to your friend in accounting or they have a different system. Now you need to shuttle excel spreadsheets in the new manufacturing system. The “new” pieces have not been worked out and instead of giving all the energy in trying to do the integration – you simply go slow with the new system. This is simply “not your job” is what you (rightly) think.
So where does this leave organizational leaders and marketers who want the innovation to succeed in organizations? Here is our take:
- Understand the perception of “real work” of the main players who will make the innovation succeed.
- Explain why and how the innovation will fit into their “real work”. A real concern is that they new way will eliminate the job by outsourcing to “technology.” If this is the case, you must have a career plan after adoption (involve HR) and that must be a step up for the employee. This linkage is the weakest in most organizations. Taking honest time with this can go along way.
- Make it easy for the employee to adopt by ensuring that what you are asking is easy and not overwhelming.Think Facebook and not a complex ERP system in one go.
- Have adequate resources to do the integration and linkages with other organizational activities.
- Review progress of implementation say monthly.
- Give feedback against expectations that are outlined as you started the project.
- Celebrate success with rewards – consider a small gift card and a letter of appreciation as milestones are achieved.
These steps don’t seem to happen in many organizations. If implemented, employees will feel more “buy-in” and less suspicious of innovation initiatives.