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Innovation versus Transformation

Companies undergoing digital transformation are in the process of moving away from hardware and into a digital business. That transformation makes an impact on revenue streams, employee skills and how products and services are delivered and marketed to consumers. The impact of a digital transformation is wide reaching.

What digital transformation and innovation do have in common is strategy. Strategy typically starts with the deceptively simple question: why are we doing this? While the answer seems like it should come from an obvious place, such as needing to modernize, the truth is a lot of companies have different and multiple reasons for transforming and innovating. An innovation strategy could be, for example, deciding how to build a business that is future resilient and meeting the needs of consumers globally.

Process and organization mater in innovation but people are at the crux of transformation. However groundbreaking or innovative an idea is, without the right people and teams in place to deliver on those new ideas, organizations cannot move forward. And the best way for people to feel empowered is through leadership. Hatrick points out that good managers tend to guide and lead, as well as observe and adjust in the process, to help support the ideas.

Which is why the right attitude is so important. Industry leading companies tend to adopt an innovation culture, where employees are inspired to find creative ideas and managers and leaders support exploration. Encouraging innovation is a mindset that needs to be adopted at an organizational level, not just as an individual.

Not every idea is a good one. So where does failure come into play? Hatrick says essentially failure is a negative word. He disagrees with those who say it’s important to celebrate failure. His standpoint comes from the knowledge that companies dedicate time, employee resources and funds toward innovation initiatives. Hatrick says failure can be better positioned in the context of lessons learned. While he admits it can be simply a matter of semantics, he believes it resonates better with leadership.

Hatrick says he also embraces the phrase ‘fail fast to succeed sooner.’ Iterating, ideating and prototyping earlier on – and learning quickly from what works and what doesn’t – helps innovation overall. Small ‘non-successes’ means that learning is happening before the bulk of an organization’s resources gets invested. This is something creative and engineering people know well. Not everything works and continuously trying new things and learning from micro mistakes is rarely seen as failure. It’s perceived as creative thinking and learning.

At the end of the day, Hatrick says innovation is about perseverance. You must keep trying and a support company culture that embraces innovative thinking is the ultimate support system innovative thinkers need.


  • Seth Adler

    Seth Adler heads up All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has spent his career bringing people together around content. He has a dynamic background producing events, podcasts, video, and the written word.


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