Change Pains

04 Feb 2005|Christoper Ireland

Ed’s fabulous post on the innovation failures of AT&T reminded me of how difficult it is for any company to truly innovate in pace iwth the market’s demand. While I agree with him that AT&T had some particularly troublesome blindspots (in the early 90’s, we suggested to them that “beepers” would hit big with teens and we were nearly laughed out of the room…), no company is immune to the stresses and strains of change–and change, plain and simple, is exactly what innovation requires.

Much has been written about people’s resistance to change. Who Moved my Cheese is my personal favorite. But the challenge really comes home when you experience this first hand, as Cheskin does each time it adapts to its customers’ needs.

We’re not a large company by most standards, so you would think that evolving our services would be easy. But we all like being good at what we do, and experimenting with new approaches and tools makes us novices again. Great if you’re trying to become a Buddhist, but not the best attribute for a consultant or researcher.

Another hurdle is technology itself. We have extensive systems that help us in all phases of our jobs. When we change an offering, we usually have to change the support system as well. In many cases, that means searching thru millions of bytes of information to find terms that need to be updated, process descriptions that need to be revised, graphics that need to be replaced, etc. It’s a tiresome and tedious job with none of the glamour usually associated with innovation.

One of the most daunting hurdles to change is believability. Even if we feel confident and comfortable moving into a new area, our clients don’t automatically accept our change. In some cases, they’ll choose a firm with less experience or depth rather than change their perceptions about us.

Thankfully, none of these obstacles stop us from evolving our offerings. But in our business, there isn’t much of an alternative. If we don’t change and innovate to suit our clients, we’ll die. Quickly.

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