When is it ok not to innovate?
This is an edited transcript of Episode 013 of Design, In Confidence, mindfulness & design podcast with Stefano Bellucci Sessa’s learnings on creative confidence, emotional intelligence, and mental health.
It’s ok to not change and innovate
I’ve been working in innovation all my life: I like to change and help others change. But I understand that it’s not fun for everyone:
- it’s not easy
- it’s overwhelming
- it comes with a lot of risks and effort
And that’s why I’m making this podcast (and blogs).
But what if you don’t want to change?
I think it’s ok to not be willing to change.
I won’t be patronising and convincing otherwise.
But keep reading to learn why it’s anyway important to nurture your creative confidence and be mindfully aware and in control of the design choice of not innovating. Because not innovating, it’s a design choice.
Not innovating is a design choice
Before I start, I remind you what I mean with:
- Innovation: the act of changing a defined environment.
- Creativity: the confidence of changing things by questioning them and exploring new opportunities.
- Design: ability to change successfully with purpose, intention, mindfully, and while mitigating risks.
What triggers innovation?
People want to change because of internal factors (like curiosity, enjoyment, competition, purpose), or they have to change because of external factors.
Examples of external factors are:
- a new law in your industry.
- people (customers, employees, partners) leaving
- new conditions, like a new technology or a pandemic.
There are good reasons to not innovate, but…
Despite triggers, you might not be interested in changing because you have:
- No interest in new technology or processes
- No problems
- No competition
- No time or money for it
Let’s look at these in detail.
No interest in the new
In confidence, I don’t care about new technologies.
Many of my peers catch up on the latest tech, while I’m not an early adopter.
I don’t buy want I don’t need because I like to be minimalist and sustainable, but I honestly don’t have enough time to catch up with ‘the new’ – it’s a distraction from my business as usual.
But I tried Snapchat once.
It felt challenging, and I felt old – is that what younger people use?
Missing out on the latest products is not a problem for my personal life, but impacts me as a designer – I’m not aware of how customers expectations change.
I can decide to avoid younger people as customers, but sooner or later, they’ll become older or more products will align with those expectations.
Be mindfully aware of which “doors” you’ve never opened. Be mindfully in control by always re-evaluating the design decision of not opening them.
Nothing working badly
What if you are strong, with everything working fine, lots of customers and the best resources?
Fair enough, if you don’t want to change.
Change comes with a lot of effort and risks, even more, if you have a big legacy of data, skillset and many other things.
However, no matter the good reasons you have to not change the present, you should have the creative confidence to look into the future.
You need to understand:
- if other resources will get better
- if yours will get weaker
- how much time will be required to switch
Internet speed was still crap when Blockbuster didn’t feel threatened by Netflix. Once internet speed improved enough, customers switched to Netflix, and it was too hard for Blockbusters to switch to a different business model.
No competition, time or money
Why change if your business or your job is not a risk?
Often organisations lack the internal trigger to try new technologies or processes – even more if they don’t have the money or time for it. But:
- What if you lack money and time for innovation because you waste money and time?
- What if, even if your job isn’t a risk, your health and wellbeing are?
Your organisation might not be designed for efficiency of time and resources. Even more if in the past, ignoring that things were changing while changing you – making you poorer, busiers and more stressed.
I worked in the public sector, where most innovation projects weren’t about drones, blockchain or artificial intelligence.
Most public sectors projects had two types of situations:
- too many people access the service, because processes and resources never changed, but the number or type of people needing support change becoming harder to manage
- people mistakenly ask for support, because they are unaware of the available support or look for solutions at the wrong service.
And the second situation worsens the first one because people’s problems become harder to solve, and service staff is also distracted by people that don’t really need their support.
So, what to do?
It’s ok to not anticipate or be the change like others do, but practice design and creativity to understand:
- when and how to react to the change
- when and how to adapt and survive
So that you mindfully design how to change instead of being changed without awareness and control.
How to practice creativity and design without changing?
First of all, accept that change happens; denial won’t help – the pandemic showed us. And it also showed us that some businesses didn’t only survive but also used it as an opportunity. I can see three groups:
- the lucky ones – those required little change or not at all to thrive during the pandemic
- the resilient one – those adapting quickly by redesigning the service
- the prepared ones – those that considered a scenario like the pandemic and had something planned
So, you cannot intentionally be lucky, but how to be resilient and prepared? Practice “What if scenarios” occasionally by asking yourself questions like:
- What if I lose my main client?
- What if my staff suddenly needs to remote work?
- What if lose one of my key resources?
Pick the business model, canvas, and play with it.
Develop the expertise and mindset to resign your business in different ways while preparing plans in case those things really happen.
You might want to start to:
- create a specific team always dedicated to research and innovation
- create a dedicate a specific time (1 hour, day, or week) when periodically people across the organisation, think outside the box
It’s ok if innovation doesn’t happen afterwards, but be clear with these people what the purpose is and why ideas don’t really go anywhere.
Or let me know how to practice creativity and design, even without innovating.
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