Dear Nilofer, How Do I Keep Everyone Happy While Innovating?

Have question? Feel free to share in response to my bi-weekly newsletter. I’ll pick one periodically to post here. 

From Sue M.:

With innovation being such a hot topic, what do you think about actually making real innovation happen at the speed my clients expect? I find I have to strike a balance on change in order to have them be comfortable i.e. too many changes and iterations/innovations to one of our main software platforms causes frustration rather than acceptance/excitement… I want to be innovative but have so many audiences (clients, investors, team members) to take into account when I want to launch an idea…


My Response:

Hey there, Sue.

I’m having a hard time starting my response to you. I can’t decide if there’s enough information here for me to be helpful. So I share that anxiety before I dive in lest I’m not getting the problem set well, given what you’re describing. But one thing did catch my eye. This sentence, specifically: “I want to be innovative but have so many audiences (xyz) to take into account when I want to launch an idea.

I want

to be innovative

But

have so many audiences to take into account

when I want to launch an idea.

As I deconstructed this sentence, it reminded me of when I was relatively young in my career, and I used to think strategy was about coming up with “the right answer”. As in… smartest, most well-thought-out thing that was researchable and provable and stuff like that. I liked statistics, and powerpoints, and post-its. But enough experiences, and I realized strategy is the way a company goes about setting the course for its future. That’s not an idea, although ideas come out of it, but a process by which ideas become shared.

What do I see in your sentence? There’s what you want, and there’s who you are doing it to. But that’s not innovation. Innovation is the process by which an idea becomes reality. So you can’t do it to them.  Not even close. It seems like you might be thinking innovation is on you, but it’s on us.

Ask yourself instead, what do we need next or to go in a new direction? That’ll be a good guide for you to lead innovation. Because the future is not created.

The future is co-created.

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