Everybody needs to be innovating, be an innovator or leading the pack with new ideas, new products and new services, and if you are not innovative, then you are so yesterday. Yet the most common words used to describe innovation are: change, novelty, addition, alteration, deviation, modification, shift, variation, newness, cutting edge, leading edge, latest thinking! Every bit of research shows that more than 67% - 72% of change programs including re-structures, takeovers, mergers and acquisition in the past two decades in Australia and the USA have failed. And they have failed because they have focussed on customers, products and services, technology and shareholders. What’s missing? A focus on the people of course! And I don’t think innovation is necessarily any better at focussing on the people! To me innovation is just another word for what is change management and continuous improvement! So why don’t we try to manage and communicate changes better and seek ways to steadily and continuously improve through engaging our people and listening to their ideas? Now there’s an “innovative idea”- listening to our people!
The most common words used to describe disruption are: division, turmoil, interruption, break, separation, disintegration, mishap and failure. Now some of these words may be truly frightening to some businesses especially mishap and failure. The most common term we hear is “digital disruption”. Deloitte has identified the industries most vulnerable to digital disruption within the next three years, with the “short fuse, big bang” impact, as retail, media, professional services, real estate, recreation and finance. All of these industries have a high dependence on their people to sell their products and services and if they don’t communicate the changes effectively, and engage with employees to be part of the solution, rather than the problem, the biggest disruption will actually be disengagement, decreased productivity and in turn decreased profitability. To me, disruption is simply challenging the status quo, and rather than ask “Why?” asking “Why not?” and “How?”
Many organisations believe that they have moved from diversity to inclusion. If only that were true in practice! We may be a diverse society, but there is very little diversity and inclusion in senior leadership in private sector organisations, governments, religious institutions and many not-for-profit organisations. Yet the most common words used to describe inclusion are: addition, admittance, incorporation, involvement, embodiment, embracing, being included, belonging, acceptance, attachment and enlargement.
True inclusion is about respect. Respect is based on seeking to understand those who are different to us, then accepting those differences, not tolerating them – tolerance is superficial and patronising. If we want true equality in workplaces and societies, then it is time to show genuine respect for women, indigenous people, people of colour, different religions, different sexual orientation, in fact anyone who is different to each of us. We need to stop judging, expecting people to “fit in” and assimilate! Let’s look at how we embrace diversity in all its forms, to generate greater productivity and creativity, rather than the current practice of seeking conformity. Conformity simply gives us more of the same, and when we do what we have always done, we will get what we always got!
I’d like to see the following buzz words become the focus of workplaces and society: Listening, acceptance, respect, humility and compassion. If leaders were to embrace these buzz words and practice them by leading by example, then perhaps we will have leaders we can be truly proud of at last.