Innovation without change

27 April 2023

“We have a business strategy to innovate, but we don’t want to change our business processes.”

Everyone knows that change is vital to business progression, growth, and future success. Business innovation is hard, and when incorrectly implemented, innovation can fail to add value to the business and have a marginal return on the effort and investment.
Innovation projects introduce new thinking that may require new products, business models, processes and procedures and we know most corporate structures, cultures, management and users fear change. Users don’t like change forced upon them, and they certainly don’t like change that is generated internally without a good reason.

Innovation can be implemented in two ways, reactively or proactively. Most businesses reactively innovate because they are forced to do so due to external factors or competitive threats. Ideally, innovation should be implemented proactively, which should ensure the greatest chance of success and user acceptance, by carefully planning and implementing a meticulous change management process. When innovation is reactive, the business usually has no choice but to change, essentially playing to its cultural fears of change. When innovation is proactive, change is often embraced, and desired outcomes achieved.

Some executives still wish to achieve the impossible outcome of “innovation without change.” Most businesses are cautious and conservative, adept at conserving the status quo and tinkering mostly at the edges. Successful innovation, however, is innately radical or disruptive, changing not only the end product or service but often having a more significant impact. It’s not surprising that most innovation comes from outside the conventional players in an industry. Entrants have little regard for existing conventions and will disrupt these for their benefit, while incumbents seek to protect their industry and at best look to manage change slowly.

If your organisation fears, resists or is slow to embrace change, anything other than incremental innovation will be difficult, if not impossible. The pace of change will continue to gather momentum and businesses that will most successfully innovate are those that are accepting and willing to change. Those that focus on preserving the status quo should have a good reason or are in unique markets, because change is inevitable, and innovation will often be the catalyst.

You can achieve change without innovation; however, innovation is not possible without change. Organisations that accept change can innovate but will need experience, skills and creativity. Those that cannot or choose not to change should not bother to innovate.