5 Challenges for an Innovative Personality
Today I was commenting on a discussion question at GovLoop.com about challenges re: innovation.
In writing about it I realized that there is a bias toward blaming the organization for not innovating.
While this issue is real, it is also true that many of the challenges I face stem from having an innovative personality. I've tried to give examples and explain ways to overcome them where possible.
1 - Innovative people have little patience for the customer
Innovative people tend to think fast, work fast, and innovate at a very rapid pace. We need to team up with other people who are able to present innovative ideas in terms, and at a pace, that the customer can appreciate. For example I put an email based process onto Google Sites, but my assistant actually works with the customer and is flexible enough to go back and forth between the innovation and the "old way." She is also innovative herself and has the technical skills to tweak the system.
2 - Innovative people don't want to stop tweaking till it's perfect
In my experience there was one executive who wanted to track all projects in Excel. Simultaneously I was developing a project tracker in Sharepoint but was hung up on all the bells and whistles and making it perfect. My colleague did the political thing and worked with the executive until he decided Sharepoint was better and convinced the other executives to use it. She worked with me to simplify it so that people could use it, and she also convinced me to stop working on it, insisting it didn't have to be perfect in order to work. Now they all use Sharepoint and have appointed a Sharepoint champion.
A related issue is that I tend to constantly update my work. This is extremely annoying when you've already showed someone how something works, and they come back and now things are different. Sometimes you have to have a version you're working on, and a version you show...they can't always be parallel.
3 - Innovative people tend to be seen as impractical
It never fails that I get great feedback on my blogs, as a speaker and lecturer but in the actual workplace, among a general audience people wonder whether innovation isn't a bit too radical for them. One way to deal with this is again, to team up with other innovators or people who appreciate creativity and innovation. Another way is to be seen as the designated innovator and so the organization makes space for your input because they feel they need someone like that.
4 - Innovative people tend to hold themselves to unrealistic standards
I am not sure why but I have this idea that I must constantly be innovating. Sounds great except the pace is obviously not sustainable on a constant basis and I sometimes feel like I'm failing even though objectively have achieved a lot. For example I've just come out of a six-week urgent website renovation project and while it was going on, managed to learn a lot of new things, develop some innovative ways to get work done quicker/better etc. But yesterday was a slow day and I found myself feeling like a "failure." So of course I drove my assistant crazy focusing on our internal blog and how it needed to be fixed up. I don't really have the answer to this except to be aware of it and to try and have mercy on the people who have to work with you.
5. Innovative people talk about process whereas most people want the bottom line
I am working with someone right now who is extremely creative. I get her completely. But when she answers a question she takes a long time to do it because she will answer the question, relate it to other things she's done, provide context, and generally take you through the whole A to Z of why she thinks what she does. For me this is all extremely valuable information and I mentally file it away as training. But for bottom-line business types (most people) it's more than what they want or can understand. My husband always tells me "say the end at the beginning" and that's pretty good advice - that and think to yourself "they only want 10% of what you had planned to say."
Hope this is helpful.
Have a great day everyone, and good luck!