Alexander Rühle

written by

Alexander Rühle

How-To-Innovate-in-Handcuffs

Nowadays, innovations are essential for companies to survive.

If you don't constantly develop and try to be better than your competition, you will be left behind.

So, it is all the more surprising that I keep noticing how much force companies and their employees sometimes resist innovation.

Some time ago, when personal meetings were still possible in large groups, I got into a conversation with an auditor at a company workshop on an Artificial Intelligence project with zapliance.

She told me how difficult it was for her to implement innovations in her company.

She told me how she had tried for several months to convince the CEO of her company of AI projects.

Whether in a meeting about the annual strategy, in a workshop to improve internal communication, or during a small talk in the cafeteria - she tried again and again.

 

But no chance, her proposal - like so many proposals before it - was shot down again and again.

And so, what happened next wasn’t all so surprising:

The colleague gave up at some point.

She had accepted that it was simply not possible to establish innovations in her company.

She was even more surprised when she read about the AI project between her company and zapliance in a newsletter a few weeks later.

No wonder she immediately applied to test the program.

 

But what had happened?

Nothing out of the ordinary really:

I had contacted the company as part of my sales activities, and at a meeting, it was decided to do the test project.

For me, there was nothing unusual about the procedure - my colleague, on the other hand, was surprised.

After all, she hadn't been able to achieve anything on her own.

And so, in our conversation, the question came up of how employees can actually succeed in introducing innovations in the company.

Because the fact that our AI project was implemented was ultimately a stroke of luck - my colleague's initiative alone would not have led to this.

But what can she or other colleagues do better in the future?

The answer is: some and nothing at all.

 

Because whether innovations can be implemented in a company depends on two factors.

On the one hand, it depends on how much one is willing to look for opportunities for innovation or participation in it.

In the case of my colleague, it was the constant search for possible innovations that led to success for her:

She was finally able to participate in an AI project.

A path that not only cost her some effort but also required the courage to leave her own comfort zone.

The second factor that determines whether innovation can be implemented in a company is independent of the individual.

It concerns the attitude of the decision-makers towards innovation.

And it is precisely this point that I would like to discuss in more detail below.

After all, what are the options if decision-makers tend to be against innovation?

 

The natural enemy of innovation: Risk-averse decision-makers.

How innovation is placed in a company always depends on the personality of the decision-makers.

If they are risk-taking personalities, it is probably much easier to propose and establish an innovation than if they are risk-averse.

The reason:

decision-makers in companies have to take responsibility for their actions.

 

The more reliable the influences that seem to lead to a decision, the more confident they feel in their actions.

So, it makes a difference whether a single person, in this case, my colleague, proposes a product - even more so in an area in which she is not a proven expert.

Or whether one relies on a sales representative with expert status who works for a company that outwardly embodies expertise and progress.

 

In the example given, the decision-makers seem to have been more risk-averse personalities who tend to be harder to convince.

My first tip for this case:

seek expert support if you want to establish innovation in the company.

This can be a forwarded email response from an expert to whom you have described the situation in the company.

Or a newspaper article in an acknowledged IT journal.

But also, a colleague within the company can help, who holds the same opinion as you - but can demonstrate a higher expert status in this specific area.

Or you can set up a company-internal working group that discusses possible innovations together and develops proposals for implementation.

You see:

There are many ways to support or strengthen your expert point of view.

 

One tip: Be patient!

Another important point if you are dealing with rather risk-averse decision-makers:

Give your counterpart time.

Because people often react to pressure with rejection.

So, over several weeks or months, let new information about your favored innovation flow in again and again so as not to overwhelm the decision-maker.

If you slowly have the feeling that "the fish is hooked" and the decision-maker is not only interested but also has a feeling of security due to the information, then you should hold a discussion only on this topic.

 

But here, too, the following applies:

Do not demand ad hoc decisions - but give your counterpart time to think things over.

This time should not be too long, however, because otherwise, the topic will lose its importance.

Two to three weeks should be enough.

 

Another important point when it comes to pushing through innovations is your own preparation.

After all, anyone who wants to introduce a product in the company should be as familiar with it as possible.

This has several advantages:

On the one hand, you can convince argumentative in discussions.

It is best to prepare concrete examples of the areas in which innovation can advance your company.

At the same time, with good preparation and sound knowledge, your counterpart will get the impression that you are an expert in the field.

And this directly contributes - as already described - to your counterpart feeling more confident in a decision for the innovation.

 

Even egomaniacs can be convinced!

Finally, an insider tip for all those who are confronted with decision-makers who are particularly difficult to convince.

The reason is often that they attach great importance to only waving through their own initiatives.

The solution:

quote statements from decision-makers that fit the innovation you have in mind.

With reference to the opening example, an example could look like this:

"The other day you mentioned the internal difficulties regarding communication between the departments and asked for a solution".

The advantage is that decision-makers get the impression that the necessity of the innovation and possibly the innovation itself was their own idea.

This impression is essential for someone who is strongly concerned about his big ego - but at the same time, this little trick enables others to drive innovation.

 

So, it can be said:

Whether one can establish innovation in the company depends, on the one hand, on the efforts of the employees to identify and use innovation opportunities.

On the other hand, the risk affinity of the decision-makers also plays an important role.

But even with risk-averse decision-makers, there are ways to push through innovations - even if it probably takes a little longer.

But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages:

you not only advance the company with your initiative but also acquire important know-how yourself, thanks to which you can consolidate your position in the company.

So: Don't give up - even if it is sometimes difficult!

 

 

team-ar

About the author: 

Alexander Rühle, CAI, CISA, is the CEO and CO-founder at zapliance. After 15 years in the finance and auditing world and having met his partner in crime, Prof. Dr. Nick Gehrke, at PWC, they started zapliance together, with the mission to change the way business professionals of the future work with data. 

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