Entering innovation – a parable to prepare you for the human dynamics at play

At the end of play Fiddler on the Roof, the peasants from Anatevka, Poland, leave for the new world because a government edict forced them out.

Packed with their what few belongings they have the villagers reluctantly exit their beloved community, predictable lifestyles and secure traditions to venture forth not knowing what awaits them and what changes or challenges they will face.

Innovation carries with it the same sentiment – leaving the familiar to enter the strange, and with no guarantee of success, only an assurance of risk and heightened emotion.

To minimize the discomfort, some organizations use a form of stage-gate process and metrics to tightly manage as much as what can be controlled in each step – from the fuzzy front end (what are we going to do?) to creatively invent new systems, products, services, markets and models (what are we really going to do?) to develop the plan to make the new invention work  (how are we going to do this?) and be a success (how are we going to communicate this?).

As exciting as innovation is to some, to others it poses a threat.  Dollars, security, identity, relationships. Not innovating is a threat too.  The environment within which some businesses were built and in which they became successful no longer exists, the rules  changed, and in some instances, overnight. That’s what happened to the villagers in Anatevka.  They had two days to pack their things.

Pay attention.  If you are entering innovation there may be some unnoticed grieving, reluctant participation, secret glee (ding dong the witch is dead!) and fresh internal competition as new doors for activity open.

When innovation occurs, the dank musty air of what was is refreshed by a wind gust of what is to create what will be. Have you given much thought to how you might your people and partners to think truly happy thoughts about the change?

New ideas.  New decisions.

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