Thousand Cuts of Innovation

I’m a prolific doodler, just add Sharpies and coffee. I recently sketched Personna’s change cycles to get to where we are today. I counted ten.

I’m a prolific doodler, just add Sharpies and coffee. I recently sketched Personna’s change cycles to get to where we are today. I counted ten. I felt stupid as a simple pattern emerged, along with the realisation that we could have saved time, buckets of money, a few staff souls in getting to our bigger game.

Two years ago, Sophia and I could see a cliff coming for our recruitment business. We were playing a middleman role in a game where tech titans will dominate.

What we loved doing — helping people make work personal — had not changed. We kick ass at aligning purpose-driven individuals with purpose-driven organisations. Our approach is human centric, we cared about the person in the equation. Yet with the cliff approaching, there was a danger of taking myopic view in driving the business. We’ll miss playing a bigger game if we don’t change.

Since then, we have iterated our services in answer to the question, “How might we help people make work personal?” For the bulk of that time, I didn’t know what the f*** I was doing. Our initial services were half-baked: free workshops that led nowhere, personality assessments that left customers with that “so what” feeling. At the same time, our old business spiked on us, which gave the naysayers within plenty of fresh ammo. Many times, we were tempted to stop this bloody change and go back to the warmth of our status quo.

With each iteration, we refined our services to get down to punchy outcomes. Customers started to achieve big outcomes. However, we were having trouble landing the right message with new customers. That horrible feeling of talking a lot and saying very little stuck. After the eighth iteration, we sought creative agency, gyro’s help to clarify our branding and messaging.

gyro was the catalyst to move us out of the “curse of knowledge” funk. We needed a fresh pair of eyes — in this case, Manuel’s — to state the truth we refused to acknowledge, “Your customers are confused because you’re confused.”

With their help, we created Fight Club. We help teams and individuals to do great work and make their highest contribution, empowering them to engage customers better, innovate rapidly and deliver results faster. We started to gain more traction with new customers.

When I look back at the ten change cycles, we were iterating in these four key areas: Leadership, Product & Service Design, Marketing & Communications, and Delivery.

Change is tough, there will be bloody noses along the journey and that’s ok. There are far worse things than bloody noses. Like staying in the warmth of your status quo, becoming out of touch with clients, silently loosing clients and one day, going over the cliff.

Change is the lifeblood of business. It can feel like death by a thousand cuts. But, you’ll emerge in a better place — more tightly aligned to you purpose and driving bigger business outcomes.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Roger Grant helps organisations unlock ideas that facilitate innovation by helping people do great work. He believes good ideas can come from anywhere. Before Personna, Roger created innovative customer-centric technology services for 18 years, working for companies like Check Point Technologies, IBM and Nokia.

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