In the Moment

Innovation Culture: Signals of Change

Erika Bailey

A great client of ours engaged us earlier this year to deliver an innovation strategy and innovation capability program. One thing we tell clients like this is that innovation capability building takes time and patience. Much activity takes place before we typically start to notice a sea change in the way people are doing things. So, when at a recent meeting, some important signals were evident that a cultural change was afoot and that collaborative practices were spreading beyond the “official” innovation team, we knew it was the right time to tell this story.

Recently, this client’s office has become an explosion of moveable and fixed walls filled with pictures, documents, and Post-it notes. In place of one meeting room, a war room has now been installed and equipped with collaborative tools. When we look more deeply at what those boards contain, we see the team is independently unpacking assumptions they have about customers, building design research plans, and organizing their collective intelligence on key projects.

The change is remarkable. Back in May of this year, their office was traditional, corporate, and filled with cubicle spaces.

The most notable of these movable collaborative boards was one entitled “Our Innovation Space”. On it was an initial ideation for reimagining the physical space for this client. No top-down directive initiated this process. A few key members of the team got things started, received the leadership thumbs-up, and got things underway.

Truth be told, office workers wanting to re-do their space isn’t a new concept, nor is it necessarily innovative. What is interesting is not the act of re-imagining the space, but instead how this moment is situated within the process of change activation — their innovation journey. Because the way they are working is changing, they are finding that the traditional layout, and cubicle organization of the office is getting in their way. They want more places to collaborate together, work big on the walls, and make their work visible and testable. They are bumping up against an artifact of the old (their old space) and are finding that it is clashing with new mental models of what innovation work looks like. This team feels so strongly about all of this that they are moved to action, which (as anyone who works in change management would know) is significant.

They want more places to collaborate together, work big on the walls, and make their work visible and testable.

Also notable is how the team came to understand what was possible. The Moment’s task force joined the team on various occasions and facilitated working sessions in their space using our material kits and tools. The client team experienced working on other occasions at The Moment’s studio. Those experiences raised the bar on what was possible, and inspired a change. Again, action led to new thinking, which led to more action.

We are particularly encouraged by their plan to use our innovation project framework to plan and execute this design project. This group is planning to speak to experts on space and their own people to clearly articulate the problems to be solved, create ideas and workable prototypes, before investing money in expensive changes.

So what’s happening here? This group acted their way into a new way of thinking. They have created cultural momentum toward the changes they want, and are building the capability and the readiness for a cultural change and critical innovation work. If well tended, signals will soon turn into patterns and will help this organization leap the chasm to innovation implementation and real sustainable change.

Though we have come to expect stories like these from teams engaging in well designed innovation processes, it should be noted that these results were not explicitly in our scope of work. They are behavioural signals of the emergent nature of building, supporting and scaling innovation teams. Our clients who embrace change activation as a complement or in place of change management are seeing similar signals and patterns on their way to building their innovation culture.

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