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Innovation Self-Test: Are You a Change Maker or Change Breaker?

05/31/2013 08:52 am ET | Updated Jul 31, 2013
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Search the web for "innovation" and you'll see 395 million results -- from the sublime to the ridiculous -- including methods, books, gurus, motivational speakers and logo wear. Yes, there's probably an app for that.

However, the secret to actually doing innovation isn't in a corporate slogan on a mouse pad, a TED talk or book -- it's having guts; the good, old-fashioned courage to be a change maker, and avoid being a change breaker.

Courage is a precious commodity, especially since blocking change is strongly embedded in human and organizational nature, particularly during uncertain times (trade secret: all times are uncertain).

Creatures of habit, we love and protect our routines. In fact, this status quo fetish of ours is so powerful that great companies routinely and famously reject the extraordinary in favor of the ordinary, carefully avoiding what's truly new.

If you accept this premise -- that innovation takes mainly guts -- then it's important to know in what ways you may be a change-maker or change-breaker. Here's a self-test that can help:

1. On a scale of 1 to 10, one being highly cautious and 10 being highly likely to act assertively, rank how you tend to respond to new ideas / suggestions for significant change in your organization?

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is completely satisfied, and 10 is completely dissatisfied, rate your attitude toward the current products, services, markets, strategies, tactics in your domain of leadership?

3. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is "keep me out of court at all costs" and a 10 is "make sure and bail me out," rate your proclivity to deal with a potential failure from implementing change.

4. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is less than once a month and 10 is daily, how often do your meetings and discussions focus on pragmatic steps to implement what's significantly new or different from your status quo?

5. On a scale of 1 to 10, where one is risk-focused and 10 is reward-focused, how does risk management versus the potential for rewards tend to influence your decision-making?

Now do the math: add up your five ratings, multiply by two, and this will give you a percentage of 100.

If you scored below 60, take a fresh look at those questions you scored lower, and ask yourself what might need to change in how you think about / execute innovation.

If you scored between 60 and 80, you are more of a change maker than a change breaker. What can you do to shore up the lower scores?

If you score above 80, the question you might consider is whether you are looking before you leap, at least to an extent that would be considered prudent.

Consider the factors I've queried, above: open-minded, dissatisfied with the status quo, failure-tolerant, attentive to new ideas, and reward-focused. Many leaders have rejected tremendous opportunities because they lacked (or shied away from) one or more of these factors.

Such resistance is understandable -- after all, transformational change upsets our sense of normalcy. Yet this need not be you. Consider the notion that now is the time for you to make any necessary changes to get yourself and / or your team in shape for the guts to innovate.