The Metamorphosis of Becoming Innovative

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Dec 30, 2019

Change can be beautiful; butterflies are the greatest proof of this.   — Matshona Dhliwayo

Today, enterprises need to adopt certain key strategies to succeed in tough markets of people, process and product. The competition is fierce and everyone seeks to beat the competition. Hence, this is the time for organisational metamorphosis.

The theme of organisational metamorphosis is attracting more attention than ever, especially in the age of millennials, with rapidly advancing technology, shifting outlook of new age employees, demand for new organisational structure and above all, organisational success. Thus, organisations require a “Sensebreaking.”

Sensebreaking is a deliberate strategy to change the current status quo so the organisation unlearns established and often deeply-held practices and ways of viewing the world, interpreting information and managing processes and people. This paves the path for new thinking leading to innovation and further helps supports transformation for organisational excellence and growth.


Everyone understands metamorphosis. It’s the transformation process of a caterpillar into a lovely and colorful butterfly. Consider the caterpillar to represent an organisation’s existing gridlocked structures, unproductiveness and unequal division of labour. Metamorphosis is all about transformation to achieve organisational excellence and growth.

The organisational transformation or metamorphosis is multi-dimensional; many different skills are needed and have to be integrated to reach to a successful organisational transformation.

The objective behind organisational transformation is to meet the challenges of today’s changing business environment to become more competitive by encouraging productive innovation, optimizing workflows and improving social structures. The focus of organisational metamorphosis is to improve the sustainable performance – economical, environmental, societal and human – and the resilience of the organisation to the changing scenario both external and internal.

This requires departments to be realigned; new teams to be built and managers to think differently. It is a difficult process needing careful deliberation and reflection to result in a successful, new organisational structure. And the process must continue to evolve, even when the new structure is in place.

Innovation and transformation

Developing a culture of innovation in and of itself can be complex. It usually includes large-scale and highly complex organisational change, with manifold inter-dependencies. The challenge of actually implementing innovation is debatably just as hard as the process of encouraging innovation itself.

A culture of innovation can make a company more successful, but only if it can implement creativity in product, process and structure. The challenge an innovative organisation faces is to make sure that enough care is being taken on to how to actually apply all the wonderful notions and thoughts they come up with.

Organisations that are looking to survive and even thrive with an innovative culture need be “change-adept.” This means they will:

  • Provide the skill and structure required to identify problems and improvement opportunities
  • Technically implement solutions in a cost-effective and efficient manner
  • Manage all aspects of the implementation including the human and cultural elements, including eliminating the “silo mentality” so common in organisations, and reinforcing collaboration, and
  • Provide the organisational support, time, and resources needed for implementation success.

Hence, the leaders of the innovation effort should have a laser-focus on the ability of the organisation to implement the desired transformation. In fact, implementation has to be developed as a core capability because without this, the innovative thoughts and ideas may be there, but little or nothing will change.

Implementation success

Building implementation capability into an organisation is the most significant role of the leaders. They need to recognize that a good idea or strategy is only a small part of the task. They must be accountable for implementation as well. In fact, the actions of leaders and sponsors are of most importance in getting changes implemented — much more important than the transformation team or the “change agents.”

Organisations must also embrace a structured implementation process that can be married with other critical business protocols, such as Lean Six Sigma or Agile.

Apart from a structured framework, implementation should include tactics and action plans for managing the human and cultural elements of strategic initiatives. Even the best idea is likely to fall stall out or flat, if there is a lack of an organized process for implementation. The change transformation procedure needs to offer a dynamic set of tools and measurement diagnostics, along with a systematic and structured framework for managing the human elements of any change project — business process enhancement to transformational change.

A structured innovation and change management methodology helps to ensure achieve the desired business outcomes in the following ways.

Key elements of a process to drive innovation

Defining and setting objectives for the change – It’s all about getting alignment with the scope and business case for the change, including the technical objectives and human side detailed in a concise yet compelling “Business Case for Action,” which also identifies prospective disruptions.

Building change agent capacity – Developing a highly skilled and highly-qualified network of “change agents” who will implement the changes around the innovation transformation at the local level is the next action step. It’s to be strongly understood even if the innovation effort is developed at the corporate level, implementation is always at the local level.

Measuring the climate for transformation – An assessment diagnostic is essential to understand the cultural barriers to change that are inherent in an organisation and must be overcome if the organisation is going to be innovative.

Generating management support – Getting the reinforcing management support for the desired new behaviors associated with the innovation from across the enterprise is an essential element for transformation.

Target readiness for the change – This is about preparing the organisation for managing resistance to the change. Change brings disruption, so even if it denotes forward progress and what can be considered “positive,” resistance is unescapable. An organisation can’t become an innovative organisation unless there is resistance.

Build a communication plan – You will require multiple methods of communicating the changes. Build in feedback loops to gather data to track progress and implementation.

Develop an underpinning strategy There are positive values for those that demonstrate they are “on the bus,” and negative consequences for those resisting, who continue to work in the old ways. These reinforcements must be meaningful, and applied with immediacy and certainty.

Role of HR professionals

The most powerful force in business is culture. And, corporate culture is not essentially the responsibility of HR leaders. Though the role of HR is vital as HR looks after hiring and training the people in the cultural imperatives of the business, but transformation depends on top management and its buy-in. Nevertheless, HR leaders can have a big influence on whether or not the organisation is culturally attuned to innovation.

There are 3 things that HR professionals can do to foster transformation, innovation and change in an organisation:

  1. Hire for Innovation and change – Hiring for innovation requires that we identify people who can “think outside the box.” Let’s not assume that everyone is equally innovative, but instead let’s recruit people for their innovation capability.
  2. Create a culture of transformation – Encouraging, protecting and building a change-ready culture is a critical role for HR to play, as it is a major driver for innovation. Nevertheless, management needs to plan, support and nurture a culture of innovation for innovation to be fruitful. An unsupportive culture is the number one obstacle to innovation. A 2010 survey by the Harris Group indicated that executives see a culture of innovation as crucial to not only growing their business (95%) and profitability (94%) but also for attracting and keeping talent (86%).
  3. Train and reward for transformation and innovation – To sustain an innovation focus, organisations must change their evaluation and compensation structures. Organisations should have well-defined criteria to evaluate work associated with innovation. As compensation is correlated to results, if the evaluation program doesn’t recognize or measure and reward innovation efforts, there can be dissatisfaction. HR should devise a reward system to incent employees to focus on new, creative approaches rather than business as usual. If the compensation plan does not recognize innovation, why should any manager focus on innovation or innovative ideas for organisational growth? Innovation needs to receive as much “weight” in the compensation and evaluation program as other tasks that sustain business as usual.


The metamorphosis of organisational change starts with the need to understand the self and the environment. Employees need to be engaged and included in planning for action and in the outcome so they will have ownership in the overall. It is also essential to build trust and encourage dialogue. The need for the change should be felt by both the individual and the organization. Self-realization of this needs will give momentum to the organisational change, which will be greater than the resistance. Here the role of HR becomes momentous.

As HR leaders, helping the organisation and its people to recognize the value and importance of innovation, to create a culture that supports innovative thinking and to hire, train and reward, these are a major responsibilities.

The journey of innovation and transformation is a huge but exciting process. Even a small initiative to demonstrate the possibilities of a new innovation can help an organisation reach positive transformation.