How Can You Increase Innovation through Collaboration? 9 Tips for Successful Change

During the last several weeks, I had the opportunity to speak to a wonderful group of leaders at a very large company in the Midwestern United States about how to increase innovation through collaboration. This singular organization is trying to change its culture by involving its individual associates in making a difference to the success of their business by improving any process that directly impacts their customers. Such an endeavor is not only admirable, but absolutely essential to their future viability in the marketplace.

Any change of this magnitude is always fraught with challenges because people often meet change with resistance. As I told my audience, “People don’t like it; people don’t understand it; and they won’t like you for trying to implement it.” Why? I am sure there are many reasons, but we often resist doing new things that we are not particularly good at or which may be new to us. We also may resist when we don’t know what the personal or professional consequences of our performance may be.

Collaborating with others when trying to change or improve anything is the key to making successful change occur and to getting the results that you are trying to create. Here are a few tips that may help you to look at change from a different perspective when trying to influence others to change their values, beliefs, and behaviors which in turn will deliver the desired results.

  1. Engage them. You have to interact with the folks to understand what they are thinking about what you may be asking them to do. After all, they know what is working and what is not; they know what frustrates them and what does not; and they know what could be improved and what should not. You will never understand what you need to know unless you to talk to them.
  2. Suspend your thinking. When people don’t agree, our natural tendency is to push back on them. You need to set your thinking aside and listen to what they have to say. Being open to their perspective is critical to understanding the thinking that is driving their behavior. You can’t change anyone’s behavior without first understanding the thinking that creates it. If you are more interested in making your points and sharing your reasons for change, they will not hear you. Listen to them first.
  3. Listen for values. When people become emotional or when they start complaining, you need to recognize the positive value that is hidden behind the emotion or complaint. For example, if someone said, “This is just one more thing that you are asking me to do to serve our customers!” The values in this statement are, “I value serving our customers” and, “I want to do what I do well.” Unfortunately we usually meet the objections of others with more pressure to get what we want which ends up creating more resistance. Listen for the values hidden in their statements.
  4. Confirm the value. Rather than pushing harder, you want to confirm or acknowledge what they have told you. For example, you might respond with, “You are absolutely right. It is important to serve our customers well. And I understand that you want to do that to the best of your abilities.” Making such a statement theoretically puts you on the same side of the issue. It acknowledges athe value that is important to them. This creates openness in them to what you are about to say next.
  5. Explain the details. The details in this instance are the rationale or reasoning behind the change that you are asking them to make. For example, it might sound like this, “If we change the way that we are completing this customer request, we can reduce the time it takes to meet that request to one day instead of our current average of 43 days. This will increase customer satisfaction and be a major selling point in acquiring new customers. No one in our industry can do this faster than we can.” In this instance, explaining the benefits to them and the customer will help them let go of the past and move into a new way of performing.
  6. Tell stories. There is power in the facts. Wherever someone has been successful in the organization, you want to look for opportunities to tell those stories repeatedly particularly to those people who are resisting a change effort. Communication research states that most people don’t understand a concept until they have heard it seven times. Telling positive stories is a great way to supplant the negative stories that people may make up as the justification for not doing something new.
  7. Explain the purpose.  Any time change is introduced, it often requires different or new activities or tasks. It is important to explain why you are asking people to do something different or even add to what they are already doing. If people don’t understand the necessity of doing something else, they will make up their own negative rationale for not engaging in the new activity. Remember that in the absence of data or facts, people often draw their own conclusions that are erroneous. Explain the “why.”
  8. Commitment to the individual. Directly asking people to be part of something new and important establishes value for their individual contribution, knowledge, and expertise. People are motivated when they understand how they make a difference. Ask them to participate and help to make the contribution that you want them to make. Ask for their participation and commitment.
  9. Express Appreciation. For many people it takes courage to express disagreement when asked to do something that they do not understand or don’t want to do. Their feedback is really a gift that will help you to understand where they are coming from and what you must address to help them move forward. Be sure to thank the person for their candor and willingness to express their views. Doing this sends the message that you value their perspective and will help them to feel safe to share their concerns and questions in the future.

Successful change in any organization requires the involvement of every member. Change takes time and patience because of the varying degrees of commitment and perspective that each individual may offer or possess. If you will follow these simple tips, you will increase the likelihood that change will occur. However, you must be positive and persistent and look for daily opportunities to engage and encourage others. Through you efforts to help others to see and understand the benefits of the change, people will eventually get on board.

How have you successfully implemented change in your organization?  What has worked well? Let us hear your thoughts.