Innovation vs. Change

We’ve heard the phrase before that “change is constant.” It’s true that from one moment to the next change has occurred. Solutions for specific situations in the past cannot effectively be replicated in the now or in the future. It’s like one person put it. History (in fact) does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Change is the natural process that adjusts any system’s flow. Machine parts wear down. Bolts shake loose. One generation passes to another. Nature is waiting to take back the earth. Change is nature’s way of meeting her objectives, but what about yours? It isn’t very often that nature’s goals and an organization’s goals are the same (although they can be complimentary).

For people to make effective and meaningful system adjustments change isn’t enough. True adjustments require innovation.

Innovation is different than change. Innovation is to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.” By definition innovation requires new methods, ideas, or products.

Innovation is sometimes the result of one brilliant individual. Nicola Tesla’s AC generator comes to mind. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb might be on the list as well, but Edison wasn’t alone. He had a team of engineers and innovators working in his shop when the code for the successful lightbulb was finally cracked.

The inventors of Tesla’s and Edison’s day had significantly more opportunity to invent miracles than those today. Today we are surrounded by a million miracles born out of others’ innovation.

Innovation isn’t normally just one brilliant person. There’s generally a pattern to the process. It starts with an environment of trust and continuous learning. In those environments collaboration can not only occur but thrive! You know collaboration when you see it. It starts as a conversation that discusses a WHY. While most of what follows my be prototyping the what to solve a need the group’s focus on why isn’t lost as the conversation evolves.

In collaborative settings no one walks away wishing they’d spent their time elsewhere. If you’re having a meeting where folks wish they could be someone else, or they regret having spent the time in that environment, then you’re not collaborating and you’re not likely to innovate–unless of course you’ve got one brilliant mind who can do it on his own.

In our home and professional environments seeking innovations (whether small or large) is possible and knowing that innovation is born out of collaborative settings gives us a better incentive to build and maintain trust and invest the time to talk about the why.

The Right Answer

The project managers in our building sit near each other when we’re not in meetings all day long.

The other day my neighbor had applied for an open position in the company and done her interview. During the interview she was asked what one thing she would change in how the project management office is working. She shared her answer with me.

It was awesome and articulate. It spoke to a real problem. As she was talking about what changes could occur I easily found myself becoming a champion of her solution. I thought it was great.

She was disappointed in the response. I asked why.

She explained that she felt her entire answer was inaccurate. No analysis was done to demonstrate that her answer was the correct one, so while she may have articulated her idea well, she couldn’t prove to herself that the idea had value beyond her own experience.

I tried to demonstrate that it did.

She didn’t accept my perspective. She was firm that the right answer could only be a researched answer. So I decided to use a bit of a research technique to help.

The technique is the 80:20 rule. It’s known as the Pareto Principle and paraphrased states that 80% of your value comes from 20% of the effort. Now, this is a principle, not a hard fast rule. Sometimes the ratio is 73:27, or 85:15, but the idea is still the same and usually remains close to 80:20 regardless of the industry or environment.

I asked my neighbor to consider the Pareto Principle means that she didn’t need to be 100% accurate about whether her response was truly top of the list. It just needed to be in the top 20%.

The conversation didn’t end with my neighbor changing her mind, doing a 180 on her perspective, and walk away with a new positive attitude. She’s not that type of person. Some people take time to change how they see things. My neighbor is one of them. I was grateful she listened in the moment. She’s the sort of person who also listens after the moments and considers other’s perspectives.

While I don’t think my answer was life changing, I do think it was truthful and uplifting. Since that conversation we’ve shared more thing that indicate the way we talked that day help to build a stronger bond of trust between us.

Trust is a good thing to have.

The right answer isn’t singular. It’s plural. Being in the range of right is better than not doing anything. Had I tried to search for the exact right words I wouldn’t have strengthened a friendship.

Photo by Septimiu Lupea on Pexels.com