Organizational development is one of the most challenging issues facing nowadays managers simply because everything around the organizations are continuously changing such as the customers and employees. The world is increasingly swiftly changing in every direction; technology, as well, is subject to enormous fast change; even our organizations are continuously changing: customers change their preferences, realizations, needs, and expectations, and employees, if we look deep into their circumstances, are not less changing than customers are.
Tracking the start point where every change begins, higher management would primarily be in charge, and hence every executive looking for excellence and distinction must profoundly understand the significance of organizational change and realize its dimensions and attributes.
Interestingly, the issue of change however is a major priority now, yet is not a new concept at all. Ancient intellectuals addressed and dug deep in the change process and had split position from change. More than 2500 years ago, Parmenides once said that “change is impossible”; however, Heraclitus was convinced with the contrary. He pleaded that change is not only possible, but also substantial and necessary. “You cannot step twice into the same river; for other waters are continually flowing in.” Heraclitus once said in simple words that explicitly persuade that change is imperative. In 1532, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince addressed change from another angle when brought to light the challenges associated with the process and the difficulties accompanied by the decision to change. Machiavelli put it better when he said “Nothing is more difficult than changing the order of things.” Obviously, we still face this controversy in our days as some executives believe in change and what benefits lay within, while others call for stability and loitering as they focus on the importance of keeping what is in hand.
To be a successful difference-making manager, you need to know the difference between two things: the first is that you have to be convinced that reality in all shapes changes constantly; this world changes, even your organization changes on daily bases. But often these changes come in simple persistent steps and may not be visibly tracked, yet today they are different from yesterday and will be different tomorrow. The second thing that is always oversighted by executives is the change of understanding. It is very much different from change of reality because not only you can change your organization, but also you may change the way you look at your organization. And this is something else.
The main difference is that change of reality is constant but the change of understanding occurs suddenly and quickly and may not be constant. To elaborate more, we may think of the popular pictures with more than one scene. At first glance, we see a specific scene, but when we stare, we suddenly realize different view or another shape. This is pretty much the second type of change namely the change of understanding wherein we shortly changed our perception of the picture and saw something different although the picture stayed materially unchanged.
A successful executive should be able to change in both types: change of reality and change of understanding. A manager may change reality of his unit by doing business, launching projects and introducing initiatives, nevertheless should also change his/her understating of the organization as well as other stakeholders’ understanding as they all change theirs according to the fast sudden change principle.
Two-way change is very important because changes of reality and understanding are both necessary to address strategic challenges standing up to the organization. For example, the higher management contributes directly to the organization’s vision that briefs the description of the organization in the future. As the world is constantly changing, and in order for this vision to stay valid and reflect the organization plan, it should be regularly updated to level up to such changes. All of us know that this would disperse efforts, lower employee motivation, and disable organizational compass. The challenge here is to establish the vision and strategy of the organization in a changing world without causing a gap between the strategy and reality. Looking to strategy as a big change of understanding rather than a change of reality may help us overtake such challenge. Two-way change applies on both organizational and strategic levels as well as on all, even simplest, administrative practices. For example, we have a problem of late attendance to work and the goal is to achieve regular attendance on time. To realize this goal, the employee may take many actions including buying a new alarm, or change residence etc. but this is not enough. The employee needs to do the other way of change, the change of understanding of being late. The employee should be convinced that early attendance gives the chance to have morning coffee and get back home early.
New approach to creativity and innovation
When speaking of change with CEOs and general managers, we often reach directly to concepts of creativity and innovation. For many, it is clear that both concepts are confused and varied because they are used with different indications by many entities. For some others, innovation and creativity are even two sides of the same coin. However in fact, they are completely different and should be severally characterized.
As creativity is relative to changing reality, an organization can be creative by changing work systems including operations, activities, and services it offers. For example, the organization may increase working hours to respond to an arising challenge. Emphasis is placed that such action requires changing reality not changing understanding. Innovation, on the other hand, is disruptive, requires deep thinking, and is realized by changing understanding. There are many examples for artistic innovations like the computer mouse when introduced by Xerox and changed our understanding to the way inputs are entered to computers using keyboards.
It is worth mentioning that creativity is achievable separable from innovation. Similarly, innovation can play solo without creativity. In the Xerox example, computer mouse was pure innovation associated with no creativity. That is why the company was not able to outstrip other creative companies in mouse manufacturing.
Your ambition as a manager must be directed to associate innovation with creativity. Creativity is introducing something new to your organization, and innovation is thinking a new system. Creativity is related to things, but innovation is thinking things.
Creativity honors rules, but innovation creates new rules. It is now clear how creativity and innovation, although related to change, are different in all other aspects including that creativity is changing reality, but innovation is changing understanding.
Innovation is what we need now
Since change has both innovation and creativity, however creativity is much more common in organizations desperately in need for innovation. It is necessary specially in this time wherein overall trends in UAE focus on work innovation as it sets us free from constant change in the world around us and rather makes us leaders of such change.
When they feel they are part of others’ change, employees get frustrated and will have poor productivity, while innovative employees normally tend to be happy and satisfied as they lead change in their career.
Innovative ideas are rarely good at the first time. New idea should be differentiated from good idea, and thus there are no bad ideas in the dictionary of creativity but rather new ideas.
To make this clear more on this, we cite the German philosopher Immanuel Kant when he said that “The light dove, in free flight cutting through the air the resistance of which it feels, could get the idea that it could do even better in airless space.” The dove does not realize that such air is what makes it fly. Therefore, new ideas, although not good, must be seen as a ground for good ideas.
When Thomas Edison developed the practical electric light bulb, he was the first to generate light without burning other materials like Candles, wood, or coal – commonly used before. His idea was new at first, yet not good. “I have not failed 500 times. I have successfully found 500 ways that will not work.” Edison wrote in his memoirs. This clearly proves that new ideas are usually not good ideas and that the best way to get a good idea is to get many new ideas.
A very long time ago, a philosopher once announced a very important concept that is we have to change if we want to lead. This is true nowadays and essential to change to better. If someone flying in an air balloon wants to go left, he must supple to the winds coming from right and use it to steer the balloon to the desired direction.
Many researches focus on how human brain operates. Many wrote about left brain and right brain. Left brain tends to use imagination and produce new ideas while unable to judge those good or bad ideas. On the contrary, right brain tends to analyze and investigate benefits and applicability of such ideas. Demarcation of the work of both brains may lead to the best results.
This differentiation may be represented in meetings where some attendees are in analytical mood whilst others are in judging mood with no adherence to productive thinking rules. The latter situation occurs when we hear words like “Yes, but” used by some people when new ideas knocks. Naturally, new ideas may not necessarily be good wherefore we give an idea a chance to turn into good one. Had NASA not believed in the non-feasibility of “Yes, but”, it would not invent a technology that enables safe landing on Mars by using the amazing technology of air bags to protect the spaceship. When it reaches the surface, the spaceship is protected from the landing shock by the airbags, then rolls like a ball until it stops and start operations. This idea helped to reduce fuel and weights needed during landing, and successfully decreased the complexity of the process. You may use your imagination if this idea was dead when proposed for the first time in one of NASA’s meetings.
Every manager is known for certain characteristics like conceptual thinking or analytical practical thinking. Teamwork has a special significance so that the manager achieve success and excellence because both types of thinking can be combined with each other to get the best results. There are many examples that prove the success of this combination. Many world-class corporations with two words in their names like Rolls-Royce and Hewlett-Packard have been established and excelled thanks to the partnership of two persons with different ways of thinking, the matter that contributes to their success internationally.
Three types of new ideas
Since importance of new ideas is addressed on organizational level and personal level of managers, it would be helpful to address the difference between the three major types of new ideas:
- Discovery: occurs when the new idea explains an existing thing but never known before. Newton’s law of universal gravitation had been existing for very long yet never known until found by Newton. Similarly, Nicolaus Copernicus placed the sun at the center of Earth movement. Discoveries are often related to sciences of all kinds. Jean-François Champollion deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs when he applied ideogram and thereby he went one better than other researchers who were convinced that old writing was either symbols or graphs but cannot be both combined.
- Creation: happens when the idea comes to create something completely new and never existed before like when Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse, and when Gustave Eiffel created Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. These ideas are not necessary and we can live without it because most of them are arts.
- Invention: means the ideas that come up with completely new concepts that have never existed before yet necessary specially in business. Organizations generally have interest, although limited, in discovery and creation, but have a major interest in invention. Inventions bring new ideas necessary for the future where stakeholders benefit from substantially essential ideas before competitors do. The significance of inventions gets along with the significance of the second way of change being the change of understanding related to innovation.
Innovation in the UAE is no longer a luxury as the Government named 2015 as the year of innovation. This concept is now introduced into different levels of organizational governance, excellence, and development. The future manager is the one who is able to change reality and understanding using creativity and innovation.