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Why Your Innovation Initiative Doesn’t Last

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Have you ever tried to implement an innovative change (with your team, perhaps?), only to find that things gradually regress to the way they were before? Maybe the problem is that you're declaring victory too early.

If you're a video person, I lay it all out in the video below. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

Hey there, Bill Stainton here with Turning Creativity into Money™. Let's talk about why so many innovative change initiatives don't last.

It's true. You've seen it happen, haven't you? Maybe it's happened with your own team. You come up with a great idea which is going to require some change, and you implement it throughout your team. And everything seems to be going great, but all of a sudden you realize, a year, two years later, at some point, things have kind of crept back to the way they were before.

The change didn't last, the innovation didn't really catch on. Now why is that?

Well, I think one of the big reasons is because we tend to declare victory too soon. And that's a mistake when we declare victory, declare victory too soon. Why does that happen? Well, because, because change—innovation and change—they can be hard work. And when we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we see that, "Oh it's ending now; we made it through this, the hard work of the change," and we tend to go, "Whew! Thank goodness that's done."

Well, it's not done yet. It hasn't really taken hold. Yes, you've made the change, you've made the innovation, but it hasn't become a part of the culture yet.

I'll give you an example of, well, kind of a weird example of this. Um, in November 2014 there was a college football game between Utah and Oregon. And it was coming down to the end of the game and the score's tied, right? And Utah's wide receiver—a guy named Kaelin Clay—gets the ball. And he does an amazing run: 10 yards, 20 yards, 40 yards, 60 yards, all the way down to the end zone. And he runs into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

Except, he dropped the ball one yard before he crossed the end zone, before he crossed that line.

So, he made it into the end zone; the ball didn't. He just, he, don't know what happened, he dropped the ball, it wasn't a fumble. He just celebrated a little too soon. Well, one of the guys on the Oregon, on the Oregon team noticed that, although Kaelin Clay had crossed into the end zone, the ball never had.

So this Oregon player picks up the ball, starts running down the field—nobody's even paying attention to him—he runs all the way down the field for what turned out to be the actual game-winning touchdown.

So what happened? Well, the Utah player declared victory too soon, right?

You don't want to do that with your initiatives. So, just because you've done the hard work, the bulk of the work is over, you have to keep reinforcing your innovation. Reinforcing your victories. Reinforcing that change initiative. Keep reinforcing it, reiterating it, talking about it. Showing how it's working, until it does become a part of the culture, until it becomes a habit.

So don't don't declare victory too soon. That's, that's kind of a sure-fire ticket to failure. And that's why most innovative change initiatives do fail. Because we celebrate too soon, we declare victory too soon. It's a long tail. Keep that in mind. And your change initiatives, your innovations will last.

I'm Bill Stainton. I'll be back next time with some more thoughts about how you can Turn Creativity into Money™.
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About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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