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Kiran Patel

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November 4, 2019

The Role of Communication in Change, Digital Transformation, and Innovation

The Role of Communication in Change, Digital Transformation, and Innovation

After months of working on a project, developing your idea, and fine tuning it, you are no doubt attached to what you and your team have created. But when it comes time to present your work, the reception falls far short of your expectations. Sometimes, it’s just silence.

Where does this lack of enthusiasm come from? To OST Design Director Brian Hauch, failure to communicate is one common reason exciting innovations fall flat. In this article, we will look at what a communication strategy looks like, how to improve your approach, and the importance of telling stories.

Communication Is the Last Mile of Innovation

When people set out on a journey of innovation, they typically focus on the technology, processes, product, impact, etc. All these things are critical to prepare your innovation for launch. But by the time they have something meaningful to show off at the end of the process, communication is often an afterthought. They’ve built something new and exciting, and that feels like the end of a very long journey.

The problem is that the rest of the organization hasn’t been along for the ride since the beginning.

Instead, at every project update, team meeting, and checkpoint leading up to the final presentation, communication is critical. Communication is about innovation management.

To launch a successful new product or service, you have to manage your innovation readiness (how you prepare to launch a new idea) as well as innovation adoption (how you handle communication once the idea has been unveiled).

Changing Mindsets Through Effective Communication

Awareness is the first step when it comes to sharing innovation. Say your innovation team has come up with a new concept. From the start, other key teams should be incorporated into the communication process. Marketing should be made aware so they can help with the launch when the time arrives. Sales should be aware so they can begin developing a sales strategy. Finance should be aware of various pricing models.

Creating awareness means communicating effectively throughout the innovation and development process. If you want people to buy in, you have to give them room to lean into the idea.

In order to communicate effectively with multiple different teams, you must also understand how different people communicate. Be aware of how people learn. Some people want experience. Some want information. Others want to see things firsthand.

Know your audience and the different people you are communicating to. What are their preferences?

“You want to communicate enough to get people on board and enough to get people confident in it, but you don’t necessarily have to win everyone over,” Hauch said. “Part of this is about figuring out what people value and how to connect this new offering to what they value.”

One of the best ways to connect with others across teams is through storytelling.

Storytelling: The Most Effective Communication Style

One of the most effective communication strategies, no matter your audience, is storytelling. “Everyone relates to a story – that’s really how people view the world,” Hauch said.

But it’s not typical storytelling.

“When we tell innovation stories, our idea becomes the hero, but it’s not,” Hauch said. “The hero is the person listening. How can your idea help the person who is listening overcome a challenge in their life?”

Stories should be framed based upon who your audience is and what their challenges are. A story should be specifically tailored to a person you are speaking to. Think through the stories you will use to communicate the key points of how you want people to change.

Communicating the Value of a New Digital Product

Large companies are built to scale. They are built to find the most efficient way of doing something (whether that’s building a product or offering a service) and repeating that to increase profits.

Change is different. It requires learning new behaviors. Often, as digital transformation occurs through new innovation, the focus is on the new offering rather than the effects it will have on people.

There is a whole separate strategy needed around change, alignment, and communicating with the team. Communication is critical as culture changes. Communication involves transparency. It involves allowing people to voice their feelings, thoughts, and concerns.

Bottom line: keep a back-and-forth dialogue open as you innovate and move forward with digital transformation.

OST: Strategic Partners for Innovation and Communication

At OST, we help our customers bridge the distance between insights, technology, and strategy in smart, meaningful ways that yield transformative results. Contact us to accelerate your digital transformation.

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About the Author

Kiran Sood Patel is the former Managing Editor of The Rapidian and hails from Illinois. Born and raised in the Midwest, she has reported for daily newspapers for years, with experience covering education, business, technology, city government and feature reporting. Prior to moving to Michigan, she worked as a multimedia reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She holds a Masters in Journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and a Bachelor of Arts in News Editorial Journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is an active volunteer in all communities and cities she has called home. She is the chair of the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the Junior League of Grand Rapids. The Junior League of Grand Rapids is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Kiran has served as the Assistant Chair of Research in Community Impact. She served as JLGR’s Chair of the Beneath the Wreath committee in 2017. She is a past Educational Programming co-chair for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids. In the past, she has volunteered as an adult literacy tutor and with the Junior League of Cedar Rapids for three years in the area of youth aging out of the foster care system. She enjoys baking, reading popular fiction, blogging, writing and being a tourist in her own city. In Grand Rapids, you can find her in search of baked goods, coffee, good food and captivating stories across the city.