I’m so excited for you all to hear this week’s podcast with Dan McClure, System Innovation Architect and Choreographer at Innovation Ecosystem. This is Dan’s second appearance on the Future of Field Service podcast; he was first a guest on episode 124 back in August of 2021. We all know how much has changed in the world of innovation since then, and Dan’s soon to release a book called Do Bigger Things: A Practical Guide for Doing Powerful Innovation in a Changing World (available February 13th).
So, I knew going in there was a lot to discuss, but we quickly strayed from my agenda – real shock, right? We’d set our sights on discussing things like:
- How has innovation changed in the last ten years, and how will it change in the next five?
- How are technologies like AI impacting innovation? Do you see this as an opportunity or a challenge for organizations?
- What’s key for organizations in navigating change/innovation well in today’s complex landscape?
While we did dig into all of these areas and more, what I want to share with you today is a piece of our conversation that’s had me thinking ever since about what innovation looks like in the service landscape and how ready companies may (or may not) be for more disruptive change.
You’ll notice in Dan’s title he refers to himself as “Choreographer” – we spend some time in the beginning of the podcast talking about what exactly this means and the hallmark characteristics. I think in some ways you can put it into a similar categorization of challengers and change catalysts – people who are excited by opportunity, who see the big picture, and who aren’t afraid of asking hard questions or sharing bold ideas.
These are my words, not Dan’s, and listening to him explain the choreographer role is well worth your time. Personally, it’s something I can really identify with – I’ve worked hard in my professional career to harness my choreographer-like traits for good, because often early on my excitement and passion was viewed more as “difficult” than creative. As an aside, and I wish I’d have thought to ask Dan about this, I have to wonder if women who have choreographer traits tend to be perceived differently than men with those same traits. I found myself early in my career being told I was “too emotional” when I’d speak up on an issue where I’d seen men in very similar situations received far differently.
Anyway, here I am getting off track! While I do resonate personally with a lot of what Dan shared about the choreographer’s role in innovation, what it had me thinking about that is relevant to you all is – how ready is service for this type of role? You hear every company speaking about how they are working to innovate, but how are they defining innovation? Are they introducing incremental improvement, or really redefining their value proposition or delivery models?
Walking the Talk
I’ve talked to many service leaders who are likely choreographers who see so much potential for innovation within their company but are stifled in not only action but even sharing those ideas because their executive leadership may lay claims to innovation but is quite comfortable with the status quo. I do believe this is changing, quickly, and that companies need to really consider how open they are to those who see the potential for change are willing to drive it.
I shared in my 2024 predictions that I believe “old-school” leaders will be ousted, and I think topic ties in. Cultures who operate in a manner where an elite few make all decisions based only on their very limited context won’t survive in the rapidly changing world Dan speaks about. Companies who recognize that innovation comes from diversity of thought and requires an environment where different perspectives and new ideas are welcomed will without a doubt take the competitive lead.
It seems many companies and leaders are following a script of what they know they should say – they are people-first, employee-centric, innovative – and so on. But is it true – is it genuine? It’s genuine when they say these things backed by a true recognition that it’s the only path to success; not in an obligatory manner.
If you identify with the choreographer description you’ll hear this week, Dan gives three options for how you can navigate a situation where you feel your ideas aren’t truly welcomed.
What does an organization who is ready for – or already supportive of – choreographers look like? A few things come to mind:
- Leaders are truly open minded
- Employees are empowered to share their feedback, input and ideas
- Employee feedback is acted upon and communicated back
- Diversity is not only deemed important but prioritized at all levels of the business
- Those who show promise as the choreographer type are given opportunities to hone their skills
What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear from you!