This podcast is different than others in the series because it focuses on personal innovation. You’ll recall that for this podcast on Innovation Best Practices, I define innovation as producing ideas to make something better. In this podcast, I address innovation to make your life better, but at a disruptive level. For example, you are unhappy in your current work and you take an innovative approach to making your life better. You develop ideas, you interview with potential new companies, and finally you get offered an exciting new job that requires you to move from Detroit to Singapore. There’s family involved. Your significant other also has a job that is impacted. Kids love the schools are currently in. You know that you will be working in a very different company and national culture than you’ve ever experienced before. This is change built on more change and built on even more change.
So how do you deal with this disruptive innovation you’ve chosen for your life?
There are many good books and articles on how to deal with this. Recently, I found a particularly good article in the Harvard Business Review – an article titled Managing Yourself. How to Embrace Complex Change. The process and principles articulated in the article have lessons for personal change, but also can be applied to disruptive innovation in business.
The author suggests a step-by-step process she calls the seven C’s.
The first is complexity. Disruptive change always involves complexity. We know this, but we do not always clearly see all the elements of complexity. So the first step is laying out a map of what the complexity of a move from Detroit to Singapore looks like.
In the example I gave earlier, creating this map probably requires involvement of all the people directly impacted. One of the biggest fears and impediments to this kind of change is a sense of the overwhelming scope of the change. This tends to be a more of general feeling supported with a few specifics. A lot of the fear can be eliminated if there’s a collaborative effort among those directly and indirectly involved to identify all of the complexity. Having identified it, it may still be a bit overwhelming, but knowing what you need to do is a big step forward.
The second C is clarity. You want to take the map you created in the previous step, which is probably in headline form, and make it far more specific. Each element may involve several steps and several people to be involved. There can be specifics like timing and who does what. This is a step that many people skip, but at significant risk of problems emerging later. Instead of handling these problems and needs in a systematic way with little time pressure, they all of a sudden become fire drills at the most inconvenient time and at the most inconvenient physical location.
Clarity requires details that are accurately stated and well written so that others reading the information quickly and easily learn what they need to learn.
Next is confidence. You understand what needs to be done and have a plan for each element that defines who is going to do what and when. As much work as you’ve put into the plan, you know to expect the unexpected. Even though there will be surprises, you now have confidence that you understand the full scope of what needs to be done. More importantly, you know that everything that needs to be done is very doable. Even if someone drops the ball, you know what to do when you pick the ball back up and move it to the finish line.
In this process, you need to realize that not everyone’s confidence is going to be at the same level at the same time. Some people will develop confidence in the change more quickly than others. Those who are on the leading edge of developing confidence can help others by sharing the basis for their confidence. Confidence can be infectious – in a good way.
Next is creativity. While you think you have your arms around what needs to be done and a plan to get it done, you know there will be a need for some new solutions requiring creativity. Sometimes you think you have a solution only to find out it’s not going to work. Instead of losing confidence when this happens, engaging creativity can quickly create multiple options/solutions you had not previously considered.
When you can solve challenges creatively within the group of people that are directly and indirectly involved in the disruptive change, the confidence increases. Confidence helps creativity. As you have seen from earlier podcasts, when there is fear and uncertainty, people tend to shut down, at least to some degree. Confidence helps unlock the full range of potential creativity. Earlier I said, you need to expect the unexpected. When the unexpected does happen it’s time to turn on the creativity to convert unexpected into a clear plan you know can be confidently executed.
Commitment is the next one. Everything that’s happened so far leads up to a deep commitment to your plan and the change. Commitment goes beyond saying to yourself “we can do this.” It goes the level of “we are going to do this.” This is a big shift – a powerful shift that significantly increases your chances for success.
When everyone is committed, there’s a deep sense that a tipping point has been arrived at. You’ve moved on from the previous reality and are already deep into and living the new reality.
Next is consolidation. You are now living the new reality. There are still remnants of change that need to be completed. New items have popped up on your to do list only to be quickly checked off when creativity and commitment are engaged. You have now completely let go of the previous reality. You’ve moved on from a sense of loss and change to excitement for what you have gained and the potential for even more.
Last is change. At this stage, the new reality is now your only reality. All of the change has been digested and is behind you. You are fully present in your new world. The focus is now on appreciation for what you have gained. No one involved in the change talks about the old reality. You are all in.
This is an interesting process. It’s not the only one. You can learn more if you want to explore further. I think the principles of this process are on solid ground. The details of your personal change will certainly impact the details and plans you need at each step.
There is some risk in trying to skip a step. For example, not doing the clarity step can result in some nasty surprises and disagreements. You discover that not everybody had the same understandings. This can add stress, which is never helpful.
So, I have addressed personal disruptive innovation. It may not happen frequently in your life, but when it does happen you need a plan. This is a pretty good place to start.