To drive innovation, you first need to understand why


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Which way you ought to go depends on where you want to get to…”

That advice from the Cheshire Cat to Alice in Wonderland might almost have been a blueprint for business development: first, define your end goal and then work out what you need to do to achieve it. I say almost because one key ingredient is missing in many organisations and the lack of it dooms many plans to failure. That key ingredient is an in-depth understanding of ‘why’.

It’s all very well saying you’re going to embrace innovation to deliver change. It’s a laudable ambition to become a world leader, a pioneer, perhaps even to be recognised as an exponential organisation (one whose output is disproportionately large because of some organisational characteristics that leverage information technology). [1] But the hard truth is that unless you first understand why then from my experience, aligning a senior leadership team around the same end goal is challenging at best, let alone engaging people and building both internal and external collaboration and culture.

Now I could point you to numerous surveys which reveal that innovation is a top priority for CEOs and leadership teams around the world. I could even point towards a study which showed that 93% of leaders believed having clarity of purpose was essential to succeed. But I could equally point you towards surveys which blame skills, legacy systems, infrastructure, people, leadership and a whole host of other factors as reasons for innovation failure. And what those surveys as with so many organisations fail to understand is that unless you take the extra step to build a deep understanding of why any action you choose will be superficial at best.

It’s why so many New Year resolutions fail. It’s all very well saying you’re going to give up this or change that behaviour. But unless you understand why you need to change and what benefits that change can bring, slipping back into old habits is the path of least resistance.

One of the world’s most renowned motivational speakers, Les Brown said this:

 “when your why is big enough you will find your how.”

In other words, when the understanding and motivation is big enough, leaders tend to find a way to overcome barriers and to transform their organisations to deliver change.

I’ll come back to this topic in a future article, as I explore why we need to be more intelligent, collaborative and adaptable to become exponential organisations. In the meantime, to CEOs and senior leaders, my challenge is simple; take a fresh look at your innovation goals and then ask yourself why. You may find that the answer surprises you!

[1] https://www.thnk.org/insights/exponential-organizations/?utm_source
[2] https://www.moorhouseconsulting.com/insights/events/barometer-on-change-2018/

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