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  • Writer's pictureTia Teamer

Innovation or Transformation? Rethinking and Reimagining vs. Revolution

What is innovation?

Innovation is a change to style, process, or procedure that aligns with an existing organizational structure. It may be new branding or software, or a new initiative of some sort. It may be another step in a process or an addendum to a policy. Innovation is a change to the appearance or surface level of a thing and does not alter the underlying framework.

Innovation is change through the lens of rethinking and reimagining what the work in its process or outcome looks like. It can be thought of as redecorating or remodeling a house. It looks different and it feels like progress. This is the level where many organizations stop. They change because the cultural climate does or because social expectations shift, and they may make marketing or procedural changes to keep up with the times.

Innovation can sometimes look like changing for the sake of change, to stay modern or relevant. This kind of work may quickly lead to disappointment and disillusionment among stakeholders when core challenges to operations and service delivery are not addressed as well.

Where the underlying foundation is strong, innovation may also provide an enhancement of the original product or service.

But rarely is it effective to change things just for the sake of change.

What is transformation?

When we think about transformation, we must return to the foundations of our house. What is the product? How have we addressed the challenges in the product? We begin by acknowledging where challenges exist within an organization. Without addressing the underlying foundational issues, transformation cannot occur.

Transformation is a rapid revolution, rather than a slow evolution, in the structures, systems, and mindset within which we conduct our work. 

Transformation honestly and critically addresses the good, the bad, and the ugly of the organization. This begins with an assessment of whether core objectives are being met in efficient and effective ways. Where that is not happening, assessment continues to identify how the root causes of those issues can be addressed.

Transformation, addressing those foundational issues that limit an organization’s ability to serve its purpose, may lead to significant changes, such as changing business processes, adopting new technology, or modifying the organizational structure.

Commitment to transformation entails an annual evaluation to assess whether goals and objectives are being met and requires a constant focus on the purpose of the organization. Transformation is a functional realignment of “business as usual” to the mission and vision the organization has committed to accomplish. 

As you consider whether your organization is engaging in innovation or ready for transformation, you may consider the following questions:

  • Have we clearly defined our goals and objectives?

  • Have we communicated them to our community?

  • Are we meeting our stated goals and objectives?

  • What are the barriers and what needs to change? 

  • Have things changed in the environment that impact our ability to continue to meet our objectives and serve our purpose?

  • What is it we are really trying to do? What are we trying to accomplish?

  • Are we focused on strategies that will accomplish our goals? 

  • Do we want to lead with our vision?

  • How can we integrate our purpose into everything we do? 

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