The energy of innovation

Marnie Weber

I’m devoted to transformation. Every day, I’m looking for ways to be a greater force of love on the planet, which requires me to grow and change so that I can honor that commitment. Transformation and innovation are related, in that both represent creative change. So when I was recently asked to design and facilitate an innovation workshop for my client, I jumped at the chance. They were looking for ways to cut at least a million dollars out of the cost of supporting their partners, while at the same time, improving the partner experience.

I’ll start by saying that our workshop was a success — we had excellent participation and came up with a clever way to improve the partner experience while delivering significant cost savings to the company.

As I’ve reflected upon the event, I keep coming back to my devotion to transformation. We’ve all been transformed repeatedly throughout our lives — none of us are exactly as we were when we were born. Our capabilities, our personalities, our beliefs, even our psyches have changed as we’ve grown and matured. Some of this change may have felt like it was done to us — not by choice. But at other times, we’ve intentionally sought transformation. Either way, it should be our second nature to innovate since innovation and transformation are both grounded in creative change. But it’s not. Why is that?

Innovation has an energy. She is demanding, disruptive, exciting. She requires attention, openness, and connection. She pushes us beyond our comfort zones. She doesn’t just show up on our doorsteps, rather she must be invited. And while she whispers of success, she often demands that we endure failures before she delivers.

Startups love her because her energy is totally in synch with entrepreneurial energy. But in an established business, innovation is often in conflict no matter how fervently leadership claims otherwise. Employees who could be receptive to innovation are busy managing their day jobs. They don’t have time for disruption, and they have a low tolerance for risk. It can be difficult to schedule, let alone enlist, other people to explore new ideas. So, innovation goes elsewhere, where she’s more welcome.

In hindsight, our innovation workshop was successful because we met innovation on her turf. We blocked out two days to play with her. We connected people across multiple influential organizations. We created a safe place for people to get outside their comfort zones, open up, and have an honest dialog and debate. We set our intentions together, we explored a bunch of ideas together, and we made recommendations together. Not only did we get approval to go forward with a new way of doing business, the cross-group teams came away more motivated and more capable of deeper collaboration going forward.

There are other ways we can invite innovation to the table, of course. It’s just a matter of understanding her energy and tapping into it. That’s what worked for us and, I believe, what can work for you.