In today’s environment, relevance is a matter of survival. Having a relevant organization means being pertinent, connected, or applicable to your company or industry. It means being current, not out of date when it comes to the latest practices and having a very strong value proposition for your internal or external clients. Organizations that are not relevant have become complacent or lazy and unable to mobilize change. They are obsolete and destined for outsourcing or extinction.
We’ve seen numerous organizations on this path: Blockbuster, Palm, AOL, and newspaper companies. Even the Arlington National Cemetery fell to this problem after the public found out they had misidentified hundreds of buried remains. Separate investigation reports pointed to the lack of established policies and procedures, a failure to automate records, and long-term systemic problems. Thankfully we have also seen many other organizations overcome obsolescence and remain relevant: Napster, Netflix, Google, and Facebook.
If you want to be relevant you need to innovate. When people think of innovation they think of big market disrupters that are totally new and fresh with lots of pizzazz. In organizations seeking relevance this is not the case. Innovation is incremental improvements, unique ways of doing the same thing, and performing the same function but with a different set of problems.
OK, you get that you need to be innovative, but you want to know how to take your first steps towards it. The most important first step is realizing innovation cannot be commanded it must grow out of a favorable environment. Variance in actions, style, and attitude must be allowed for innovation to flourish.
Let me give you an example of how important this is. Everyone knows that Singapore’s cities are meticulously clean with safe streets, minimal congestion, and well-behaved citizens. Government officials are very proud of this but back in the late 1990’s they recognized their cities lacked spontaneity and artistic creativity. They launched a campaign to audition and hire street performers. They then let actors, jugglers, and musicians that played American folk songs loose on the streets. Needless to say, it did little to boost their cities creativity and innovation because their overall governmental policy allowed for very little variance.
Here are some specifics that will help you create an environment that allows variance in action, style, and attitude.
There is no other path to becoming and remaining relevant. If you want your organization to have an extremely powerful value proposition then you have to innovate. This is not easy and will not happen over-night. Most importantly, it requires you, as a leader, to change in order to create change in your organization.