Open Letter to Employers: Innovate or Die

2 May

I tend to get in trouble a lot. And it’s not because my life goal is to piss people off. It’s really not. It’s just that I’m the kind of person that challenges things.

I challenge processes, I challenge rules. I challenge behaviors. And I’ve found that a lot of times, people don’t like this. I ask questions. I push buttons. I ask how we can change things to make them better.

So lately, as I vent about my frustrations about the workplace, the responses I get are usually a combination of the following:

  • That’s just how it is
  • That’s life
  • We all have to go through that
  • Things will never change
  • That’s just how it is

And my response is always…

But does it HAVE to be?!?!

Do we just have to accept things as they are? Are we really that closed minded?

With the influx of this new generation of workers comes the availability of fresh perspectives and new ideas. Employers would be wise to listen to them. Not because everything they say will be right, but because perhaps SOME of their ideas will prove to be valuable.

I’ve said it approximately 57,683 times but here I’ll say it, annoyingly, again…

Organizations that will succeed in the years to come will be open to new ideas. They will fully embrace innovation.

Because without new ideas, without challenging outdated practices, how would we ever improve? How would we grow?

And that’s exactly one of the reasons why I have the utmost respect for the practice of research. Physicians are constantly finding new ways of doing things in an effort to improve the lives of their patients. It’s fascinating.

Some of their ideas are bold. But of course they are! They have to be! That’s the only way to move forward and to improve.

Too often people are told to leave things as they are, to just accept things.

“That’s just how things are…that’s life…”

These thoughts scare me.

Because that kind of thinking discourages innovation and therefore discourages the discovery of new and perhaps better ideas.

I mean, think about it. In the past, if you needed heart surgery, you’d have open heart surgery. Wonderful. Today, we have things like minimally invasive cardiac surgery. So for that, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you crazy doctor that said, “Hey, you know what? There must be a better way of doing this.”

Crazy doctor…you’re kind of awesome.

And what’s pretty cool is that this same innovative thought process can be applied to anything. Your HR team, education, management, healthcare, government practices, really…anything.

So employers, do everyone a favor. Do yourselves a favor.

Challenge the status quo. I dare you.

Because that’s how you’ll stand out in today’s economy. That’s how you’ll remain competitive. That’s how you’ll remain successful. And most importantly, that’s how you’ll make a difference.

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29 Responses to “Open Letter to Employers: Innovate or Die”

  1. Christa May 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Totally agree, Kayla. We’ve seen dozens of examples of this play out in the market and still corporate executives resist. Or worse, they pretend they’re innovating when really they’re just doing the sae old thing they’ve always done and dressing it up a little bit differently. Ultimately, they learn the lesson when they realize they’ve become completely irrelevant to customers.

    • Kayla Cruz May 2, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

      Good points! As an employer, you always have to know who your customers are. You have to understand what they want. That way, you can tailor whatever it is that you’re doing to better meet their needs. The demographics of today’s society is changing. People want different things. So employers that don’t adapt to meet these needs will surely find it hard to compete with others that do choose to be innovative. Thanks for taking the time to post!

  2. larkycanuck May 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

    you should consider a career as an employment lawyer.

    • Kayla Cruz May 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

      Haha, who knows…perhaps at some point in my what I hope to be very long life. Thanks for reading!

  3. Nowan Zen May 2, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Thoughts that will kill any organization:
    1. “We’ve never done it that way before.”
    2. “This is how we’ve always done it.”
    3. “Change is dangerous. Stick with what ‘works'”
    4. “If you don’t like how we run things, you’re free to work elsewhere.”

    Sadly, these are spewed like a mantra. If we always stick to the same methods, we don’t grow.

  4. Monica Kowal May 2, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Amen, sister!

  5. Maia May 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm #

    I just had a similar conversation with friends yesterday. In our case, we were talking about applying to grad school and how people were telling one of my friends in particular that she shouldn’t go because there aren’t any jobs, opportunities, etc for people our age, once we graduate. I thought this was ridiculous! Sure the economy is not ideal, but our current generation is innovative and bold. We will find a way to succeed, and one of the ways to do that is to push the status quo.

    • Kayla Cruz May 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      Yes, I think we will succeed and I think it’s unfortunate really how many people are discouraging us rather than encouraging and helping us. Besides, what kind of crappy attitude is that, right? Lol

      • Maia May 3, 2012 at 4:40 am #

        I know! That’s what I told my friend!

  6. Lisa Holden Rovers May 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm #

    Speaking as a somewhat enlightened / somewhat disillusioned Gen X / Baby Boomer Cusper, I certainly understand both sides. Most youth – of all generations, entered into the workplace with a fresh perspective and eagerness to make an impact. However, “the way things are” talk tends to block a lot of those ideas. People and workplaces get stuck in their habitual ways of doing things and they cannot see how they can possibly make dent.

    When I teach goal-setting workshops, one of the things I talk about is how we tend to set goals based on what we know is possible, versus setting them for what we want and then figuring out how to make it possible. People get stuck in their existing circumstances and conditions, and any new ideas seem impossible to achieve. We need to reverse that thinking… What do we want? What circumstances and conditions are needed to make that possible? How do we need to make that possible?

    Advice for Gen Y’s reading this – recognize that older people in the workplace were once where you are at … find out what changed for them. Chances are they are just as frustrated as you, but have succumbed to “that’s the way things are”.

    • Kayla Cruz May 2, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Lisa, thanks for responding. Your thoughts are excellent. Well said. I think that’s a great way to set goals. Focusing first on what it is that we want. Then figuring out how we can get there. If more people used this strategy, I’m sure they’d be amazed at how much can be accomplished.

  7. Gerald Lane Summers May 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Kayla: Remember that you have to have the facts available to justify your view when challenging the status quo. I recall telling my publisher that when it comes to writing and some outdated grammatical rules, that I follow rules that make sense. Not just in writing, but in all things. He said I’d be very welcome in Longboat Key where the old ladies who dominate the population ignore traffic rules and go no faster than five miles per hour.

    As an example of my rule violations: I disagree with the currently accepted view of how the EM dash should be presented. Most rule books say it should be a line connected at the end of one word and the beginning of another, and should be used to designate a pause. An ellipsis also accomplishes this, and is not connected. I say that connecting the dash suggests the two words are part of a single word. Others disagree. I leave a space between the end of the first word and the start of the dash, and do the same at the end, so it stands alone as a punctuation mark. I have noted many authors doing this now, and am pleased to see this deviation from the straight and narrow. The factual basis is, of course, that all punctuation marks should stand alone and complement the writing rather than interfering with the writer’s intention.

    Gerald Lane Summers, J.D.

  8. Rae May 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm #

    Exactly, Kayla! This is something we can all relate to…it’s pervasive in all fields, on all levels. Complacency and routine kill innovation at the root, and not only innovation, but like you said – the ability to make a difference. At my work, we rolled out something new with a little technological twist to be more efficient for staff and clients. It was simple. We held training, gave out instructional manuals, demonstrated the new way. There was understandable skepticism (especially as we worked out the kinks), but most irritating – people tried to skirt around the new system or kept calling because they did not trust the new procedure outcomes. They wanted to double check “to be sure” what they were seeing was accurate. They tried to do what they want. We got them to a new level, kicking and screaming. It takes time, but things can be improved. Sometimes, you have to push and sometimes you need to relent, but certain things should never be acceptable.

  9. paddymcdougall May 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    Enjoyed reading your post, just a few points to consider with the caveat that i don’t what you are trying to change or how you are doing it. Intent is to help

    1. Innovators in the workplace always meet resistance, dont give up however, don’t show frustration your critics will use it against you. WD40 was the final product after 39 attempts

    2. People dont like change and when faced with it they will generally follow the change curve, shock,anger, denial etc You can’t force them through it, you can do things to help them move through it though

    3. Avoid using the word ‘why’ as in why do we do it that way? studies have shown that it will invoke fight or flight response. use other open questions or TED questions

    4. Present new solution with the 4 P’s Position,Problem,Possibilities and your Proposal

    5. A Mehrabian concluded that the way you say something and your body langauage are more important than the words in face to face communication…however make sure you know your facts when challenged

    6. Sell the benefits profit,time saved, cost reduction or employee engagement etc

    Totally agree that companies that don’t innovate will perish Kodak,Nokia, to name a few

  10. becca3416 May 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm #

    Brilliant! Innovation… yes, yes, yes. “That’s just the way it is” no, no, no… *shudder*. It amazes me how stuck businesses can get with that kind of backwards thinking!

  11. paddymcdougall May 2, 2012 at 9:39 pm #

    Oh final thought, people don’t like being told things, so when being met with resistance ask them ‘if we don’t change x,y or z want will be the impact?’

  12. summerstinydancer30 May 2, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    “These thoughts scare me…”

    Oh I know exactly how you feel. I love this article and I love your blog. What got me to read more was you saying you you’re annoyed with corporate bs.

    So happy to know there are people like you out there who know that life is more than what the world sometimes paints it to be.

  13. ivonprefontaine May 2, 2012 at 11:01 pm #

    Well spoken. Keeping pressing the creativity and innovation button per Ken Robinson. We need to radically shift our ways of thinking in the corporate world and in fields such as education, health care, and government.

  14. The Kid May 3, 2012 at 2:59 am #

    A Kid in a Man’s World must deal with this challenge every day at the office. You tend to run into people who are satisfied with a paycheck… playing it safe… not taking risks. And that means running into a brick wall. It’s why us Kids need to stay opinionated and not only be open to new ideas, but volunteer them without fear in the workplace.

  15. jeffrecitestheblues May 3, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Great post Kayla. I think people often become tired by the time the have risen to the position of “the decider” and many people are simply not just lacking in ingenuity but motive and energy to change their habits.
    Their are different types of people: those who are the avant-garde, the first out of the gates. Those who follow suit en masse. The second goers. And then the laggers. Sometimes being the lagger can be a good thing but oftentimes a lack of the first order of people can be frustrating. New ideas take a long time, so why waste it?
    I think it’s interesting to ask, just like you do, does it have to be this way? Oftentimes it’s simply not the truth. Yes it’s a lot of work having to explain things to people but not everyone is going to see with the same eyes and they will need to be not just told but have something new shown to them.
    I think that if we each take our turn recognizing this in our respective homes, places of work, everywhere, then a lot of good comes from that. Teaching each other in the end anyway.
    Viva le diffèrence!

  16. teammaz May 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Really great thoughts Kayla, and others…I see this all the time with my coaching. Small businesses just keep banging their heads against the wall doing the same things they’ve always done. They tell me “well it always worked in the past”!! And yes, they tweak things a little, but rarely if ever make true substantive change. Yet when given new, innovative, alternative options, they find every excuse in the book to NOT try them….

  17. indieblack May 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    The best way to deal with this issue is to create your own business. If you have fresh ideas, then you should become the competition. Another option is to work for a smaller company because they are more open to young talent. The larger corporations love to shut young people down. If you don’t blend into the culture, they will figure out ways to get rid of you.
    Good entry, Kayla.

  18. rdopping May 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Kayla, well said. What’s wrong with people anyway? You really have to wonder. As you continue to write it seems to be that you get your fodder from your workplace or from those of your friends. Boy, I have to wonder why you don’t change things for yourselves and forget those that say “that’s life”? What a BS way to approach living.

    Go out there and find it or change it. You’re young and you have time. So, let’s hear about how you have attacked this problem head on and made it your own.

    Great post. At least you recognize the issues which is more than most.

  19. joshdurso May 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    The only problem is though that companies care a lot less about “making a difference,” and a lot more about making money. Well, a few individuals making money anyway. Change is just that; it’s change. Change requires time, work, energy, and most importantly an allocation of funds that many don’t want to spend because it will mean a temporary dwindling of their own pockets.

    Great posts, great idea’s, keep posting.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Effective Use of Gen Y Talent…Why We Need to Look Beyond Job Descriptions « Gen Y Girl - June 18, 2012

    […] assist the organization in ways not described in their job descriptions? Can these descriptions be altered or are they set in stone?   What if employees have ideas that can potentially help your […]

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