Innovation: Advice for building an innovative culture in your newsroom

One of the biggest challenges news organizations face is how to become centers of innovations. It’s a radical shift, and certainly much easier said than done.

In terms of providing strategies and a roadmap, one of the smartest people around on the subject is Scott Berkun, author of the “Myths of Innovation.” On Thursday, Berkun gave an hour-long presentation online through O’Reilly Media called, “How Progress Happens: The Down and Dirty Truths and Secrets That M…

I’ve embedded the presentation above and it’s worth a listen and look. But let me also share some highlights.

Berkun’s underlying theme: “For innovations to work, ideas are not the hardest part. The hardest part is to get other people to support it.”

Berkun: “People make change. Not technologies. What risks are you willing to take? And how does that manifest itself in the world?”

Fundamentally, people fear change. “If you’re going to be an innovator, you have to understand how you’re going to position change to get people to want it…Get past how wonderful your ideas are.”

Berkun: “Understand what power you have, and what power you can borrow.”

When looking for allies, seek out those who are unhappy. Persuade them that change could help. They are less committed to the status quo. “If you can convince people that they’re sinking, it’s easier to get them on the life raft,” Berkun said. .

Don’t use the word “revolution.” It has bad connotations. It scares people. And most revolutions fail. “These charged words will polarize people and turn people against you,” Berkun said. “Whenever someone says we want to tear down the system and start over, they’re ignoring the history that this is often very bloody and usually fails.”

You need power: Common ground, as good as it sounds, takes a long time to find. It’s not an efficient way to .

His advice for individuals in an organization who want to innovate:

* Create a small prototype of an idea.
* Show success.
* Use that find more allies.
* Ask for more resources and stake your reputation.
* Repeat.

And for managers:

* Make it easier for individuals to do the above. “Being a manager is much more about creating an environment for people to be innovative,” Berkun said.
* We are Pavlovian. People do what they are rewarded for. Change your financial rewards, and promotion systems to encourage innovative people.
* Hire for change.
* How do you deal with ideas you don’t look like? This a good measure of your skills. If you’re a manager, that means you’re not on the front lines of new ideas. So you have to give some latitude to people who are. He suggests accepting some ideas you don’t like, just to set that tone.
* Only you can provide cover fire. As a manager, your job becomes more and more about providing cover fire for the experiments being done by people beneath you who are the real innovators.

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