How the Rubber Band Effect Hinders Innovation
You stretch it, you hold and — swish, it just goes back to normal. This is what happens when you play around with a rubber band. You just don’t get anywhere with it.
Unfortunately, this is also the situation with many organizations trying to change the corporate culture and further develop their innovation capabilities. I have seen too many cases in which innovation leaders and team members are supposed to be inspired by books, blogs and consultants to change their corporate culture.
At first glance, it all makes sense, but the trouble comes along when we move to long-lasting implementation. This is where the rubber band metaphor kicks in. You stretch the mind-set, you try to keep people in this new way of thinking, but bam – daily work routines kick in and you are back to square one.
I have reached the conclusion that only two situations can help deliver lasting change in a fairly short period of time. One situation is when companies have a burning platform. Things can happen when people realize that it will get ugly if serious change is not delivered.
The other situation is where you have an executive team including the CEO that really get innovation and want this to be an important part of the corporate DNA. They will do what is necessary which includes letting go of people who just don’t get it. Such CEO’s and executives also need to sit fairly securely in their seats. If skeptic employees get the feeling that these executives could be on their way out, they will just try to wait it out and thus hinder the needed change.
Yes, I am probably a bit too pessimistic here, but if so, then please help me understand what can really be done to make lasting changes to the innovation culture in organizations that are doing okay and just wants to improve a few extra notches.
P.S. I first heard of the rubber band metaphor from a Philips employee. Unfortunately, I did not get her name so I cannot give her full credit for what I think is a nice way of saying this.
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Stefan Lindegaard is a speaker, network facilitator and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, intrapreneurship and how to identify and develop the people who drive innovation
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I share in one of your conclusions- we respond, we react, we innovate differently and push out of our comfort zones ONLY when we are presented with the inevitable- your burning platform.
Nothing else Is that pessimistic – I don’t think so
Old habits die hard…. Crises absolutely can precipitate positive change (if managed properly). Tough bosses- usually takes longer and is less likely to work. Culture change can happen but it usually takes a while to socialize the new behaviors. Involving employees (or representatives of employees) in the change process slows things but can ultimately increase ease of implementing lasting culture change. Aligning as many processes as possible to support the change is also critical. I’ve worked with companies who claim to be innovative but severely punish any failures, destroy the effective teamwork needed to bring ideas to fruition by rewarding just star performers (so much for the teamwork), and so on. Ultimately I agree it is a major challenge but I’m somewhat more optimistic….
To my knowledge, Jacques Barzun first named the Rubber Band Effect in his book, A Stroll With William James. You can get the book at AMAZON.