The Corporate Cubby House

foster-partners-trailer-video-tpl-cc-us-20190213_16x9

Should you be the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) of a large corporate organisation that has been tasked with the development of an innovation culture that is truly unique, and one that actually works, then just sit back in your comfortable, expensive leather desk chair as you already know the answer.

The solution is indeed simple. Just go back in time to when you were an adventurous, carefree and potentially naive eight year old who made a decision with your closest friends to build a cubby house.

In case the number of years from when you were eight has become slightly diminished with age, time, and tad too much requisite social sobriety, let me summarize the process that you may have followed.

The Plan
No, you did not have sufficient pocket money to engage a global consultancy organisation to make a vast array of recommendations for you, there were definitely no Powerpoint presentations, nor large committees, you and your mates just decided to do it.

The Selection Criteria
You looked upwards and identified the best tree that could provide you with sufficient height that your dog, little sister or brother, parents, and enemies could not physically assail without personal difficulty.  In CIO speak, these individuals could be classified as the competition.

Resources
This was your initial demonstration of innovation. At first glance, you had nothing, but with a bit of foraging through your parent’s workshops, gardens and potentially those of your neighbors (the term stealing never came into your vocabulary when you were eight), you had all that you required.

Construction
Yes, there was risk, there was failure, and some cuts and bruises, but with persistence you managed to build a structure way up high in the branches that met your immediate needs.

Evolution
As the cubby house fell apart with the passing of days, or as your group of trusted compatriots expanded in number, you found yourselves continually experimenting with new ideas, some driven by necessity (as the rain poured through an unsealed roof). However, the key is to remember how your innovation and creativity could never be extinguished, nor limited in any way, as there was always a solution to any problem.

Status Quo
Once the Cubby House had been in operation for a prescribed period of time (normally dictated by the end of the school holidays), you didn’t rest on your laurels, but you and your mates sought out other new and exciting challenges. You utilized your experience to build bigger and better structures, after all, you were eight, going on nine, and you had many ideas, and much mischief to make!
Now back to you, the CIO.

The solution: Just release those long standing corporate shackles of conservatism and visualize you at the age of eight, and all the innovation that you, and your organisation will ever need will be revealed.

The Script of Change

Theatre..

The life of an Actor is one of continual change. When the Actor is handed the script that defines their character in a theatrical play, they immediately immerse themselves into exploring their new role in a professional manner, as does all the acting cast. Initially, they may have some reservations or hesitancy on their newly assigned task, but they accept the challenge knowing that with time and practice they will eventually master what is required from them.

The Actor will also typically make extensive research into the profile of their designated role to ensure their performance in credible and consistent with the other performers in the play.

With time, the actors start to discard their own individual personality and begin to morph into the required behaviour that is required in order to ensure the required artistic success.

The parallels with that of an actor and an employee experiencing a corporate change management program are quite similar and many a business organization can learn a lot from the process.

The Script – In a corporate change management program the employees are typically provided with high-level objectives that they are then expected to deliver with a sense of urgency. (This is like handing the actor the script and then asking them to make a public performance with minimal time to prepare for their role. The result will undoubtedly not be optimum).

Role Practice – Employees are asked to modify their behaviour to be consistent with the required change management program. To many employees, this new behaviour may be quite challenging and inconsistent with their experience and skill set. (The actor needs time to practice and research their new role to make sure they get it right. They will make many mistakes prior to the actual performance, but these mistakes are opportunities to learn, modify and master their new role). Business management needs to provide employees with the skills required to deliver the change management program and to tolerate any learning mistakes made along the way.

The Props – Most corporate organizations use posters, videoconferences and other e-messaging techniques to try and support the change program. However, most are deemed to be superficial by employees and do not achieve the targeted result (In a theatrical play the stage is continually changed to support the actors and to create an atmosphere that embellishes the actors on the stage, and those observing off-stage in the audience). The corporate office provides a vast array of potential prop opportunities, some examples: why not move the CEO from their office to a desk out with the employees (a bit like having a military General out in the battlefield with their troops, rather than sending commands from the isolated HQ), move the employees to another external office which may have less of the corporate trimmings to signal the change in work environment and thought, or reposition work teams from their well established office position to other parts of the building (or into fragmented teams), etc, etc.

Have Auditions – many employees have been type cast into their existing roles based on their previous experience in those roles (An Actor auditions for a variety of different roles and is willing to explore new opportunities and characters). In a corporate change management program, employees need to be given a script that allows then to think differently and to utilise many of the skills that may have been hidden as they were only allowed to use some of their personality attributes that were consistent with their current role and job appraisal criteria. For a change management program to be successful, HR needs to allow employees to exhibit other creative and innovative flairs of skill that the organization may have actively suppressed (which may be one of the reasons why the business needs to now change!)

The theatrical play, together with the corporate change management program, will enjoy raptured applause and success when all the participants have been provided with the required time to practice, perfect their script, and have the appropriate props. The outcome will be a shout of “BRAVO” from the audience (and the business community)!