Lindsay Uittenbogaard Commscrumming from the Netherlands
Here’s a bit of a rant….
Maybe it’s just the places that I’ve been hanging out in recently, but when a company strategy asks for innovation and the communication department is still mainly focused on improving alignment to strategy via mass media – I vomit. Why? Because innovation isn’t something that people do sitting at their desks – it’s something that happens when people connect.
Many middle managers are still so preoccupied with trying to deliver to their main priorities alongside 200 emails a day that the cross-team collaboration piece that is so badly needed in order to generate innovation possibilities is fertile ground for the communicator.
Communication can support innovation by providing, for example:
- events to stimulate new / hybrid solutions between departments,
- knowledge sharing and social communication platforms to make innovation fora and their content more globally accessible,
- recognition for innovative developments that surface to encourage an increased innovation focus
…it’s a playground!
In other words, the narrow definition of communication as being simply a tool to broadcast messages of the Senior Leadership is still prevalent in many organizations, even when the requirement for people in the organization to communicate better / differently is being loudly broadcast by the communicators sending those messages. Can you sense the ‘Grrrr’? 🙂
Are these kind of activities too close to the business for the high-level communicator? Don’t communicators have the sponsorship? How do business leaders imagine that ‘innovation’ will happen after the message is broadcast without this kind of intervention?
We’ve been here before on this topic – but the question I pose here now specifically on the topic of communication is: what will it take to move ‘organizational communication’ into more open, customized, fit for purpose spaces?
Rant over. Looking forward to responses…
Mike Klein–Commscrum Prague
Here in Eastern Europe (where I’m on a brief visit), there’s a time-honored saying: that one can easily love the taste of lamb but can’t handle the sight of blood.
It’s apt in this case. A lot of folks in middle and senior places, having come up through the technical and financial ranks, now want all of the benefits that accrue from nurturing creative and flexible talent and the processes (like innovation and reciprocal communication) that such talent requires.
To a large extent, the discussion in the business world isn’t just about how to get the right talent and the benefits that come from having it–it’s about the undertone–how to do so with minimum shock and change to controlled, top-down, by-the-numbers cultures.
Like “bloodless” lamb at the supermarket, creative talent that can adapt to rigid cultures is available–at a price. Sometimes, that price is monetary, other times, that price is a willingness to accommodate slow change if one can play a major role in ultimately defining that change.
Ultimately–if the price of innovation is change, the challenge businesses will need to face is how to manage that change rather than now to avoid it.
Kevin Keohane – CommScrum London
Innovation is logically impossible in a vacuum (although Dyson was a great innovation as a vaccum).
The distinction to me is between the clicheed but nonetheless relevant “communication as a noun” and “communication as a verb” difference that lies in many ways at the heart of the CommScrum movement.
With innovation, communication as a noun is necessary but not sufficient – it might support “other people” doing innovation. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in that, particularly if you can make it work faster and better for your organisation.
But as a verb it’s about “communicators/communication” being participants in the innovation process. (Note to self: don’t mention Design Thinking or one of our prolific commentators may feel compelled to remind us there is nothing new under the sun, change is impossible and a 1876 study said all this already).
You can innovate simply by bringing communication as a verb into the conversation, since communication is not traditionally a part of numerous business conversations. And you will help the business perform better – particulary when it comes to brand, positioning and business strategy. That leads to changes in organisational structure and processes et voila.
Dan Gray – strapping up his cauliflower ears in Riyadh
Not sure I have a great deal to add, except to pick up where KK leaves off on the point of systems and processes.
Pick up a copy of The Discipline of Market Leaders by Treacy and Wiersema. Look at how organisations that excel at innovation actually structure themselves. The point is that rigid hierarchy, top-down management and “tell and sell” approaches to communication, still so prevalent in many organisations, is fundamentally at odds with the loose-knit structures and person-to-person communication systems that are the hallmarks of innovative companies.
As a profession, we have to have the confidence to raise our game and advise on this “Organisational Design” piece – to deal with the underlying systems and processes of communication (the verb) as well as the craft of communication (the noun).
Actually, as said prolific commentator has already identified, what’s implicit in these systems and processes carries far more weight, and is therefore infinitely more valuable, than any explicit communication.