How Change Management and Innovation Intersect

Innovation by definition means change. Not all change, however, is innovative.

Person working on a robot.

Change – whether innovative or not – is inevitable, and the people and companies that regard change as a leverageable asset are the ones that end up better off for pursuing change. Those that see change as a problem, or something to be avoided at best limit themselves, and at worst, fail outright. 

Change isn’t easy, and that’s why the concept of change management exists. Change management is the discipline and commitment that guides change and that ensures those affected accept and apply changes as indicated. In other words, change management is about the “people” side of change, rather than the nuts and bolts or technologies behind change.

Innovation and change management frequently go together, and how the intersection of innovation and change management is navigated can determine how successful the innovation ultimately is.

The Role of Leadership in Change Management

Change management is leadership-induced and driven by strategy. It is by nature disruptive but is episodic and generally tied to a defined change, such as a change in technology or a change in physical location. Leaders are the agents of change management, identifying needs and desired outcomes, and creating actionable plans for coming through change not just intact, but improved, and ready for bigger and better things.

The Role of Leadership in Innovation

While change management is leadership-induced, innovation may come from anywhere. The best organizations encourage and reward innovation at all levels. Innovation may produce something entirely new that no one has yet thought of, or it may take a radically different look at what’s right in front of everyone all along. 

Two coworkers giving a high five.

The role of leadership with regard to innovation is more that of enabler or “cheerleader.” Innovation may result in a level of change that requires active change management, and when it does, leadership must be ready and willing to employ change management so that the innovation fulfills its potential.

Strong Change Management Maximizes Innovation Success

Organizations that demonstrate excellence in change management are better positioned to harness innovation. By contrast, those that ignore change management or think it unnecessary are not in a good position to make the most of innovation. Such organizations may end up littered with good ideas that were discarded due to fear of change or plain old entropy. 

Change management not only helps keep change on track and lines of communication open during major changes but also helps provide a great environment in which innovation can flourish. The very presence of strong change management indicates a commitment to positive change and offers encouragement to the innovators who are ready and willing to leverage change. 

Innovation without change management can still cause transformation, but innovation with excellent change management can get even better long-term results. The company that commits to leveraging change rather than avoiding it, and that commits to managing change proactively rather than reacting to changes that are imposed by external forces, is a company that is poised for long-term success.

If you’re excited about innovation and curious about putting it to work in your organization, IdeaScale invites you to get the Innovation Starter Kit.

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