Changing Management’s View of an Innovation From “Probably Not a Good Idea” to “We’re Late”

The key to changing management’s view of an innovation from “probably not a good idea” is to assess the impact of metrics that they care about. At which point you are often told “We’re late.”

Measuring The Impact Of An Innovation

In May of this year I was invited to take part in a month long group discussion on CPSquare where my consulting practice was the topic. This is the third question I answered, it was a follow up to the second question.

Q: I work in prevention and community change.  We have a lot of established staff who do not see the utility or possibility of most of what social media communications technologies have to offer.  We have new staff who tell me they hate going to work because there are no interesting tools to connect them to their contacts and communities. They are continually frustrated by lack of access to even simple social media tools.  Almost no social media is allowed. No facebook, twitter, youtube, etc. While the state agency has a form to submit to file for an exception, they are rarely granted and if staff attempt to access a site that is not allowed – they get a Big Red Hand on the screen. Every site they visit is tracked … they can be written up if they spend too much time online or visit sites that are not on ‘the list’.  All of this insanity as the world is moving to the cloud!

So, in the end they have no access during work hours to the very customers (community members) they are aiming to engage or serve or collaborate with other than through — you guessed it — email. Sigh.

I dream of the days when we reach “shared experimentation” between provider and community in order to achieve a real learning ecosystem of “shared learning”. Until then they are somewhat bound and gagged. I am curious about the ways you’ve employed to open eyes to the possibilities and to creating that dissonance between what is and what could be with a new tool set and way of thinking?

A:  I share your dream.

I think this situation goes back to task/job definition. If the management team views work as the production of paper or database entries or Microsoft Word documents then alerting them to the power of fostering relationships outside of the organization is going to take some careful preparation and extended engagement.  My first set of hypotheses would be that they are concerned with

  • How can I measure this activity?
  • How can I distinguish between this activity and goofing off?
  • What is a clear deliverable outcome I can expect after a reasonable period of time?
  • What opportunities are we missing by not taking part?
  • What will we give up to give people the time to engage in this activity?

Pretend for a moment you had been tapped to lead a small team or group that would spend one hour a day on social engagement what would you do to foster shared learning and expertise within the group. What promises would you make for deliverables within two week, four weeks, eight weeks, thirteen weeks? Can you point to other groups/organizations that are similar to yours (in function, mission, …) that are doing a better job of fostering shared learning through social media engagement?

Probably Not A Good Idea Vs We’re Late

Normally in the private sector new ideas exist in one of two states in a senior manager’s mind:

  • probably not a good idea / waste of time and resources
  • late / need to catch up to competition or customer need or request

It’s not a recipe for leadership and normally requires a crisis or near death experience at an organizational level to trigger change, but it’s not uncommon.

I don’t know if this helps but gathering some objective info about other organizations and anticipating likely questions about measurement and outcomes would be two places I would start. Also you can plan for “exponential ramping.” Figure out what you can accomplish and point to on your own, then bring another person, then two…

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