Identity Blocks Innovation

Innovation is built using well proven methodologies, however it requires more than an effective process to motivate and inspire the imagination of an innovation team. The right leadership is central to any innovation teams success and if not managed carefully leader and team identity blocks innovation.

People and particularly leadership are a very important part of a successful innovation culture and the most effective innovators need to master cultural change.

A recent Harvard Business Review case study illustrates this point, Pixel a division of Deloitte Consulting provide teams of on demand talent to support client engagements. Pixel enables their clients with resources who have critical and in demand skills such as AI, Machine Learning and Data Analytics. So it is a business that is providing access to hard to find expertise and collaborating on innovation and new product development.

However despite the successful completion of many projects there is still significant push back to this concept of ‘Open Talent’ and ‘Open Innovation‘.

Other organisations have also trialed similar looking to crowdsource or open talent to augment innovation or product delivery teams. The problem that they identified was that these resources challenged the professional identity of the team. This issue is so prevalent that NASA teams flatly rejected open innovation as a challenge to the scientists and engineers professional identity.

Professor Michael Tushman who wrote case study for Harvard Business Review suggests four ways to deal with how ‘Identity blocks Innovation’ and to help innovation leaders protect their professional identity while taking advantage of these open innovation methodologies.

  1. Define a higher level of ambition – help establish the process of innovation as higher value professional goal, rather than something to protect themselves against.
  2. Reset Identity – NASA encouraged scientists and engineers to focus on the bigger ‘WHY’ question rather than the narrower ‘HOW’ question. This saw them open the blinkers to consider “solution seeking” rather than “problem solving”.
  3. Engage in Open Dialogue – By addressing the fears directly and facing into the reasonable concerns.
  4. Frame Innovation as a Both/And Challenge – When Deloitte consultants were concerned about their long term value the reframed the question as a Both/And challenge not an Either/Or.

The most common failure associated with large change and transformation is due at its root the failure to have quality conversations that uncover and face into the future.

Synopsis of an article from Changelogic
How Professional Identity Blocks Innovation?
by Eugene Ivanov
Published: 2nd October 2020

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