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Innovation – so much cooler than Change

The Management Centre

Yvette Gyles

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of calls lot about providing training and advice for managers in two specific areas. One call, often delivered in a slightly worried and urgent tone, asks for training on managing change. Another, usually slightly more upbeat call, asks for a workshop on creativity and innovation. What strikes me as interesting is that when customers make these calls it tends to be when their organisations are experiencing some kind of challenge, or believe they might have one in the future. But why do they frame what might be essentially the same challenge in very different ways? After all, both requests are essentially asking the question ‘what do we need to do differently to drive success?’ What’s driving these different requests? Why don’t people just ring up and ask for a ‘success’ programme? Some times it seems to me that customers ask for innovation just because it sounds cooler…

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Customer A is seeking a change training programme, supporting staff at three levels: Change and Me (managing myself through change), Managing Change (using those all-important communication skills) and Leading Change (ensuring change is well executed at a strategic level). The organisation is seeking the training because it’s facing huge external pressure to make resource cuts and needs, at the same time, to deliver more. (Sound familiar?) They want people to feel confident and equipped to handle change while working in ambiguity.

Customer B, on the other hand, is looking for a suite of innovation modules, designed to help staff at all levels find and embrace new ways of working together. This organisation is also facing huge external pressure to make resource cuts – but needs at the same time to deliver more. But they want people to feel confident and empowered to make change happen while working in ambiguity.


Let me be clear. If you asked me “Are these just the same thing?” – a neat consultant way of packaging up the same material differently? – then my answer is no, they’re not the same thing. But they do both relate to organisational challenges that can’t be addressed through the ‘normal’ processes.  Part of the issue is that the L&D managers who get in touch have different perceptions about the learning needs when they ask about these two very different programmes – which may reflect an organisational attitude. Innovation is often seen and experienced as a cool, positive, playful approach to create opportunities. Whereas change seems more often to be all about uncool doom, gloom and trying to avert disaster.


If you’re wondering which approach to adopt, let me see if I can help:

  1. Creativity and Innovation: creativity is a process you can learn that helps people come up with ideas – and these ideas could be useful and helpful to deliver organisational success in a changing context. But creativity is not enough. Innovation is the process that turns possible ideas into useful realities. Creativity can be fun, innovation is normally hard work. When both are adopted systematically the results are hugely rewarding. So, what’s the different here? Well, managers often see the need for new ideas and ways of working when external pressure kicks in, when competition hots up, when processes aren’t effective any more, and when there are new opportunities. These kinds of drivers point to us try something new – to make a change through creativity and innovation.
  2. Managing Change: has many of the same drivers but often the solution adopted has been decided or imposed from above. Here you also need two complementary processes. Managers driving change processes need a set of both hard skills (such project management, resource planning and strategic thinking) and a set of even-harder communication skills (influencing, inspiring, motivating, and supporting). Managing change is a leadership as well as a management activity. It involves people, and people can be very hard work. In this case managers not only need to understand and articulate the rationale for change, but also need to get buy in. They need to influence upwards, downwards, sideways and outwards. They need to be able to look after themselves during change and support others. Here managers have to lead their teams to a new structure or approach.

So, if you’re facing a significant organisational challenge, and want some training to help address it, which should you choose? Well, innovation seems to be much more fun, and therefore much cooler and much more about getting the job done. BUT no radical innovation can get off the ground without engaging people and helping them find ways to implement it. And that requires hard work – tenacity – and communication at all levels. My recommendation? If you’re serious you need to double up and address all learning needs. Cool may not be enough…

Find out more

If you’re keen to find out how we can help you navigate through a change situation with innovation and creativity, contact us online or call to speak to one of our consultants on 020 7978 1516.

You might also be interested in =mc‘s Creativity and Innovation Toolkit training programme.

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...