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"Creating new things is infinitely easier than changing old things… If we focus on building the new, the old will ultimately go away."

Dr. Clayton Christensen

Business Professor, Innovation

Building the Future: Why Creating New Things is Easier than Changing the Old

posted in Leadership

Dr. Clayton Christensen once said, “Creating new things is infinitely easier than changing old things… If we focus on building the new, the old will ultimately go away.” As organizational leaders in business, government and not-for-profit, this insight offers a powerful strategy for driving transformation and innovation within our organizations. Let's explore how to harness this principle to not only foster growth but also to align our efforts with our core values, enhancing both personal and professional fulfillment.

Embrace the New: A Catalyst for Innovation

Creating new things allows us to bypass the resistance that often accompanies changing established systems and processes. When we focus on building something new, we tap into a wellspring of creativity and potential that is not bogged down by the inertia of the past. This approach aligns well with the values of innovation, creativity, and flexibility, which are crucial for staying competitive in today's fast-paced market.

Values-Driven Creation

Building something new should not be an aimless pursuit; it must be anchored in our core values. Our values guide and motivate our actions, behaviours, decisions, strategies, and plans. When we align our creative efforts with our values, we ensure that our new ventures are not only innovative but also meaningful and fulfilling.

Here’s a structured approach to integrate values as you create new initiatives:

  1. Clarify Your Values: Begin by identifying and articulating your core values. This process involves deep reflection on what matters most to you and your organization. Tools like the Values Discovery Workbook can help in pinpointing these values by asking key questions about past experiences, influences, and core beliefs​​​​.
  2. Ground Your Innovations: Once your values are clear, ground your new initiatives in these values. Whether you are launching a new product, implementing a new process, or entering a new market, ensure that every step aligns with your values. This alignment will not only drive engagement and satisfaction but also create a coherent and authentic brand image​​​​.
  3. Focus on Positive Change: Dr. Christensen’s insight reminds us that building new structures, products, or processes naturally phases out the old. By focusing on positive creation, you foster an environment where the outdated gradually becomes irrelevant. This process can be observed in how innovative companies continuously evolve, leaving behind practices that no longer serve their purpose​​​​.

The Role of Leadership in Building the New

As leaders, it’s crucial to create a culture that encourages and supports new initiatives. This involves:

  1. Empowering Your Team: Encourage your team to execute upon existing initiatives by providing the necessary resources and support. This could mean allocating time for creative thinking, offering professional development opportunities, a simple management philosophy upgrade or fostering an open environment where new ideas are both welcomed and tested.
  2. Balancing Competing Values: Use frameworks like the Competing Values Framework to balance the need for innovation with other organizational values like stability and efficiency. This ensures that while you pursue new ideas, you maintain a stable operational base​​.
  3. Communicating Vision and Values: Clearly communicate your vision and how it aligns with the organization’s values. This not only motivates your team but also ensures that everyone is working towards a common goal with a shared understanding of the underlying values.

Practical Steps to Implement Values-Driven Innovation

  1. Set CLEAR Goals: Define what you want to achieve with your new initiatives using the CLEAR goal-setting framework, keeping in mind how these goals align with your values. This helps you maintain focus and measure success.
  2. Create a Guiding Document: Develop a guiding document that outlines your values and how they will inform your new initiatives. This document will serve as a reference point for decision-making and strategy development​​​​.
  3. Regular Reflection and Adjustment: Continuously reflect on your initiatives and make adjustments as needed. Ensure that your actions remain aligned with your values and that any changes enhance your overall strategic goals.

Conclusion

Creating new things, as Dr. Christensen suggests, is a powerful strategy for driving progress and innovation. By focusing on building the new, we not only facilitate growth but also naturally phase out the old, less effective practices. Anchoring this process in our core values ensures that our innovations are not just new but also meaningful and sustainable. As leaders, it is our responsibility to foster a culture of values-driven innovation that can propel our organizations toward a brighter, more fulfilling future.

Remember, aligning your new initiatives with your values not only drives success but also ensures that the journey is as rewarding as the destination. So, get out there, build something new, and let your values guide you to greatness. And hey, if things don’t go as planned, at least you’ll have some great stories to share in your next keynote!