Getting Through Disruptive and Innovative Change

"If you're not innovating, you might as well go home."

Most leaders understand if they are not addressing change proactively, someone will likely rewrite their rules for them. Great, but perhaps not so great examples include Blockbuster (Netflix), Taxis (Uber), Blackberry (iPhone), and Borders (Amazon).

At the same time, however, the culture of a large company may heavily reinforce the notion that change and uncertainty should be avoided at all costs. This often hinders companies that otherwise have the resources, talented people, strong product portfolios and deep pockets to really adapt and embrace innovative change.

I speak daily about Additive Manufacturing (AM) - a disruptive and innovative technology - with companies of all sizes, across varying industries. It's understood that there are different ways an organization can adapt to the change AM may bring, and each individual path may be different, however, here are 10 strategies I feel must be mastered to help embrace disruption and radiate it throughout your organization.

Give everyone goals.

At all levels. To promote a culture of change, ensure employees at all levels (i.e. engineering, business management, procurement, customer support) are held responsible for the change through actionable and measurable goals.

Start now, and start with intention.

Even if you have to start small, start now. It's better than starting big, later. And you don't have to start perfect. As actress Viola Davis shared recently at The Massachusetts Conference for Women, “You don’t have to have it all together to show up.”

Remember, you're creating your customers' future.

Customers today are less loyal and less trusting than customers of the past. They are also smarter and more powerful, thanks to the internet and social media. Lean in and anticipate their needs. Focus on modeling your business around what they will need tomorrow. The success you'll find from doing so will make your business case around innovation easier.

Embrace co-opetition.

More often than not, innovative change is rejected due to a fear of increasing costs. Perhaps in early stages, your organization could find ways to save money (and settle nerves of cost-conscious leaders or investors) by working with your competition, instead of against them. This method is surprisingly accepted in some emerging and innovative technologies, including Additive Manufacturing.

Profit from the overlooked.

For years, you may have only been looking at the obvious. It's time to uncover the less obvious, the overlooked. Asking yourself and your team, "What assumptions do we make about our product or our business?" is usually a good place to start.

Control what you can.

When embracing change, there are going to be lots of bumps on the road that you cannot control. Wisely use your time to master those that you can.

Integrate > Isolate.

Ask your employees for ideas and input. This will foster a sharing spirit, and help integrate the innovators rather than isolate them. Connect one to another to help optimize performance, solve the tough questions, and recognize the benefits of change sooner than later. Put processes and tools in place that make sharing easier.

Challenge the status quo. Break the rules.

One technique involves backcasting, instead of forecasting. Start with your organizations vision for the future, and work backwards. Rather than examining outcomes from the past to predict the future, try switching it around. Don't be afraid to change how things are done.

Savor the surprises.

Welcome the unexpected. Sometimes, the best is what you get when you don't get what you expected. Stay open to it all.

Promote creativity.

Creativity is simple - it's creating new connections between existing ideas. As Steve Jobs once said, "When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something." Creativity is important to fostering innovative change because creative people tend to be more motivated. They feel they have achieved something or they have discovered a better way of doing something. The more motivated they are, the more productive they are, and the more productive they are, the more open they are to change.

There are many great strategies an organization can use, this just lists a few. Are you facing disruptive or innovative change? What is your organization doing currently to facilitate? Or what do you wish your organization would do differently?



As always, I welcome any comments or questions at

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