Newspaper innovation: No longer an oxymoron?

Excuse the title. It is a personal reminder of a presentation I delivered at a newspaper industry event in 1992. I introduced my topic by sharing that, in my opinion, the phrase newspaper innovation ranked right up there with jumbo shrimp as a classic example of an oxymoron.

My, how things have changed.

Recent articles and e-mails from INMA and other blogs (including those by Geoff Tan here in the Bottom-Line Marketing space) have covered the topic of innovation. A recently released INMA strategic report expounds on the topic, and rightly so.

One of the most compelling, frank, and, well, helpful perspectives on developing a culture of innovation actually doesn’t mention innovation. The Employee Handbook of New Work Habits for a Radically Changing World by Price Pritchett and Ron Pound references change. I recommend it as a short yet insightful perspective for organisations struggling to transition culture and employees to the new paradigm.

One passage in particular should resonate with newspaper leadership and their employees:

“Take no part whatsoever in resistance to change. If the organisation decides to turn on a dime, follow it like a trailer. The organisation cannot wait for employees to go through some slow adjustment process. It can’t afford to gear down while people decide whether or not they’re going to stay/get on board.

Consider this: New hires join up ready and willing to help drive the organisation in new directions. They’re eager to prove themselves and make their mark. You would be the same if you left your present job and signed on with a new outfit.

So why not take this approach right where you are? Now?

Instead of being a drag on change initiatives – one of the resistors who causes delay – develop a reputation as one who pushes the change process along. Make yourself more valuable. Help create a high-velocity operation.”

In reality, innovation and change processes in your organisation may and often do begin with the utilisation of outside expertise (i.e., consultants). But what the passage addresses is that to be truly successful, an organisation must embrace innovation and change internally.

From the top down and from the bottom up, the organisation must embrace constant learning and be capable of identifying and implementing opportunities for constructive change.

I have written about this in two previous blog posts: One about why it is important for organisations to evolve, and another about why companies need to cultivate a culture of learning. Both addressed the need to innovate, adapt, and change. They are worth a read if you missed them so follow the links if you are so inclined.

But I will close this blog with a two further recommendations that bear noting. Both are relatively subtle in nature.

1. Remember that innovation and change require lots of learning to keep all your employees on the same page. Consequently, please banish the word training from your vocabulary. Being “trained” suggests learning by rote and repetition to conform to a routine.

People rarely look forward to and appreciate being trained. And it certainly doesn’t sound innovative! Substitute the phrase professional and personal development, and make an effort to communicate that you are investing in your employees when you invest in their skill sets. You may find they embrace the process with more enthusiasm.

2. Remember that change and innovation increase the potential for risk and mistakes. Einstein was famously quoted as saying he never failed, he just found thousands of ways that didn’t work. You don’t fail until you stop trying.

Well, it helps to fail in a lab rather than the real world. Test your innovations in ways that make risk manageable to avoid catastrophic outcomes.

Just as important, while you need to acknowledge failure and learn from it, focus the attention of your organisation on success. Celebrate individual and organisational successes and achievements. Your employees and clients both prefer to be associated with winners. Be perceived as a winning organisation.

So, you’ve heard from me. How about you? What’s your latest innovation? I’d like to hear from you.

About Bob Provost

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