Stirring up a Storm

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In this post, Mafe Salazar talks about the paradox of innovation in corporate culture. In the lead up to their Degree Show, the MAIM Class of 2015 shares their individual perspectives of the Morphogenesis as an Innovation Manager.

How to change things when nobody thinks they need to change?

I am amazed at how problems go overlooked in workplaces. Having worked in different industries for over eight years, I have always contemplated on the inefficiency of managers to grasp the core problems encountered at work on a day-to-day basis – especially the ones generated by their own people. Misunderstandings, exclusion, demotivation, burnouts and abuse are still roaming the professional context in different degrees, but what happens when management does not see it?

These situations put the Morphogenesis role in a very difficult position. Our objective as Innovation Managers is to facilitate change through connecting and mediating between different areas of an organization. We have the ability to smoothly make change, by clearly articulating to stakeholders in their own languages, so that we can all take a step forward. We would be hired by someone to take on this task, and maybe, just maybe, we have the bad luck to encounter the worst problem of them all… finding out our boss is completely unaware that he/she is a horrible boss!

Tushman and O’Reilly (2004) conclude that organisational culture is key for managers to diagnose and actively shape organisational cultures, executing today’s strategies and creating the capabilities to innovate for tomorrow’s competitive demands. But when you encounter a ‘Horrible Boss’ who is not aware of his or her impact on the work environment, the task becomes much more difficult and sensitive. It is possible that anything you say or do can land you somewhere between a positive interpersonal transformation or worst, being handed a pink slip straight out the door. How should we, as Innovation Managers, solve this problem without stirring up a storm?

The findings of my dissertation, based upon the observation of managers in Social Businesses, led me to create a framework identifying the key roles that a manager must fulfil to be a catalyser of change. This framework can be a tool to address negative personalities emphasised on positive roles, initiating a dialogue with a manager, which in turn should reflect with them on their personal traits while addressing weaknesses and focusing on strengths. This is a strategy I look forward to utilising and testing the next time I encounter this problem.

I honestly don’t know if it is possible to change a manager who is unaware or in denial without the risk of an uncomfortable discussion, for I have tried and failed too often. There is a need to accomplish organisational objectives, tick all the boxes set by an authority or shareholder, deviate managers to manage the most important task they have, managing people. The MAIM 2015 class is currently organising an event at the end of June. Not only will we deliver a successful event, but most importantly, our managers should be able to acknowledge their impact on the group, address their own strengths and weaknesses and are able to change with the support of the team, definitively making the process itself as successful as the final result. I am working hard to do this myself, but to see this happen with every member of the team, would be the ultimate Morphogenesis experience.

To learn more about the Morphogenesis and Mafe’s research, stay tuned for the upcoming MAIM 2015 Degree Show, taking place at Central Saint Martins in the week starting on the 23rd of June.

*Tushman, M.L., O’Rielly III, C. (2004 [1996]) The Ambidextrous Organization. Managing Evolutionary and Revolutionary Change, Michael L. Tushman &Philip Anderson (Eds.) Managing Strategic Innovation and Change. A Collection of Readings, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 276-291