There are times when you, as a manager or executive, can take the time to architect a change-management process, much as I described in my previous column. Often, change management, even when intended to make changes easy to understand and transition, is bungled. And other times, change simply happens to us, and the test of our mettle comes with how we react to that change. Bury our heads in the sand and hope it blows over? Or figure out how we’re going to survive it, then embrace it and move forward?

My firm is wrapping up research on collaborative innovation, and we highlighted our findings in a recent webinar. I led that webinar with the context that we’re now almost four years after the “econolypse” that smashed the world economy, an economy that’s slowly being rebuilt–sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

The new reality is that there are fewer people in the workplace and there’s far more work to be done. (Fear of over-hiring is a serious problem.) Companies with employees who worked ONLY as standalone, departmentalized “cube workers” can no longer afford to work that way.

But as someone who has been involved in both Enterprise 2.0 and innovation management since well before 2008, I’ve been amazed at how many companies I work with that have seen this massive economic shock as a wakeup call.

One glass-half-empty commenter on our survey sees the econolypse creating a two-fold effect: “First, there are fewer people to source or to do sourcing [for collaborative innovation]. Second, the elimination of jobs has reduced morale and forced all employees to work even harder. The focus now is on things with direct results, which makes less direct things like brainstorming [or collaboration] a tough sell.”

Another survey respondent’s more positive comment better sums up the attitude of most of my clients: “Pre-2008, [collaborative innovation] was not on my personal radar. Now I have the opportunity to observe how team members work together in an environment that is outside of their normal work routines. This creates stronger organizational bonds across departments and functions. In sum, it builds a stronger and more resilient firm. Ultimately, I have stronger and better managers and teams to rely on.”

Creating a “stronger and more resilient firm” is a necessity, as there are no guarantees that the economic shockwaves have stopped.

As you head into the rest of 2012 and the years to follow, consider how you worked pre-2008 versus post-2008, and where you are now. Have you changed enough to weather the next storm? Are you actually getting the best you can out of your workforce?

This isn’t just about better collaboration and knowledge-management tools. Another survey respondent summed things up well: “The industry is more accepting now of collaboration and shared intelligence. Tools are better, but so, too, are attitudes.”

I’ve held many technology roles over the years, and much of my work involves finding appropriate technologies to drive collaborative innovation at scale. But if you’re waiting for the “perfect” or “best available” technology to power your company out of the econolypse, I’ll let another respondent have the final word on collaborative innovation: “If you don’t work this way, you miss the best people have to give.”

Source: Information Week

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