Three steps to building a passion for change within your business
Now that we find ourselves several months into the year, digital innovation projects that were touted for early 2021 should now be well and truly underway.
In fact, the majority of UK businesses (56%) surveyed by Studio Graphene in January said that they intended to make digital transformation a priority this year. Whether this is due to necessity, or the continuation of long-term innovation plans, the months ahead for many businesses will be characterised by change.
Having worked alongside both startups and innovation teams at large corporates, I know all too well that in the case of digital transformation, things are certainly easier said than done. From experience, of the most common roadblocks that teams face when it comes to actually delivering on their plans is a reluctance to stray too far from the status quo – from both leadership teams, and employees throughout the organisation.
With that in mind, here are a few steps that can help your business build a passion for change.
Change starts from within
The first thing to bear in mind is that change should ultimately come from the lower and middle ranks of an organisation, rather than from senior management. Through regular communications with clients, customers, partners and peers, employees at these levels will have access to valuable data and insights that will enable them to spot opportunities for improvement.
As such, the process of raising concerns and voicing ideas needs to be looked at carefully to ensure it enables and encourages employees to take the driving seat when it comes to pushing for change. To do so, those at the top of the hierarchy should actively pursue conversations with employees across all areas of the business and create a culture in which it’s safe to speak up.
Beyond this, whether it is improving an existing product or process, or using new technology to better serve company needs, all ideas should be considered carefully when they are proposed. Indeed, due to the perceived level of uncertainty involved, it can be tempting to reject a risky idea before exploring how it could support the company’s broader strategic goals.
For those that have merit, employees in more senior positions should mobilise around new opportunities and help ideas gain traction. While junior staff members will generally come up with the ideas, they will need executive support and resource allocation to act on their vision. Devoting time, mentorship and resources to turn ideas into reality will bolster employee confidence, and encourage others to put forward their own ideas.
It is often assumed that plans for digital innovation are created by limited teams, who are called upon to overhaul existing IT infrastructure or create new offerings, rather than through the collective efforts of everyone in the business.
The reality is that, to create a strong framework for innovation, companies must make it easy for members of staff to build networks across different teams. This is vital for encouraging conversations between different parts of the business, sharing ideas, and ultimately collaborating on projects that will benefit the whole organisation.
Each employee will have different areas of expertise and novel insights into how new tech could impact their immediate team and day-to-day responsibilities. To help teams produce big ideas, everyone should get a say in the decision-making process – rather than leaving this solely in the hands of the IT department and tech specialists.
Company-wide conferences and networking events are great ways of getting people from different departments talking and sharing their experiences. When a seed for a new idea is planted, business leaders should also encourage colleagues to work together on projects, whether or not they come from the same department.
Add innovation to the agenda
As a final note, I would urge business leaders to add innovation to the agenda. Brainstorming and testing new ideas often becomes an afterthought rather than a strategic business goal, and while employees might be encouraged to come forward with new ideas, sometimes there is not enough time and space in their busy working schedules to dedicate the resource needed to fully flesh these out and experiment with the approaches.
Formally adding digital transformation to the agenda will give employees the breathing room needed to take their ideas to the next level. What this means in practice will naturally differ from businesses to business, but one simple option is to allocate a certain section of meetings to new discussing ideas. This can be supplemented with targets, such as encouraging teams to test one new piece of software on a quarterly basis, or come up with a design for a new feature on the company app.
Ultimately, these actions will send a strong signal to employees that their input and creativity are taken seriously. Building a passion for change can take time, but once employees are on board, they will be inspired to take the reins where innovation is concerned.