Innovation in any setting can be daunting. Being an entrepreneur is gut-wrenching, and filling the role of change agent takes a level of energy that most do not feel they possess. When you have the responsibility of being a change agent in your business, organization, or community, the burden of leadership weighs heavily on your shoulders. I’ve been in all three positions and have the battle scars to prove it.
Creating something new or improving a pre-existing process has always been my approach to work and to life. I’ve always tinkered and tweaked until the process is running on greased grooves. Being an innovator has its own set of challenges. Demands on your time, expectations of always being able to “create,” and constantly being presented with problems that require emotional and physical effort to solve only represent a subatomic particle of the stressors chained to innovation.
My love of “making things better” led to a reputation as an innovator and change agent early in my career. Back then, my research interests focused on identifying the differentiators of success between the top performers and average performers within an organization. Taking this data, I created “success models” that could be used to select, coach, develop, and train top performers. The business world lured me into the fold because of my reputation as an innovator and change agent. Those monikers have afforded me the opportunity to perfect these approaches across five continents and with countless clients. That status has also carried me throughout multiple companies, boards, organizations, and communities. It’s an energizing role to play for sure, but I know all too well that it can also be immensely stressful.
If that wasn’t enough to fill one’s mind, the pressure of being an entrepreneur takes up the rest of your mental capacity. Entrepreneurs innovate while simultaneously being change agents. If wearing those hats isn’t stressful enough, payrolls and payables have to be met. Entrepreneurs must make certain their customers are served, their employees are paid, and their bills are current, while also ensuring life needs are met. No matter what blows up at work, the kids still must be housed, shuttled to school, fed, clothed, and put to bed.
Enduring the life of an innovator, entrepreneur, and/or change agent takes the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Solomon, and the endurance of Jim Fixx. The purpose of The Innovator’s Field Guide is to provide you with respite, inspiration, and hope during those times when everything appears bleak.
You’re likely familiar with the concept of an accelerator. In most cases, an accelerator is an extended program, usually twelve to sixteen weeks in length, that is designed to help early-stage entrepreneurs fast-track their ventures. The process helps entrepreneurs find and traverse the critical paths to gain traction and, ultimately, success within their chosen markets. I’ve taken the opportunity to adapt the accelerator concept for use in large and small companies, educational institutions, non-profits, and other organizations. Remolding the paradigm enables organizations to find, extract, and operationalize innovations from within the ranks of their current teams. I now spend a considerable amount of my time working with those types of organizations.
In my coaching and consulting practice, I annually conduct over 400 individual engagements with innovators, entrepreneurs, and change agents. I have recognized the similarities in their functions and the strenuous emotional demands they face. The Innovator’s Field Guide is designed to address many of those demands by allowing readers to step away from the fray. Use this guide to take a few moments of respite and to reflect on specific aspects of your role. By no means is using this guide meant to be additional work—you have enough already. The stories and concepts contained within are designed to be a “breather” for you that will spur you on to fresh, immediately applicable insights.
The best use of The Innovator’s Field Guideis to take a set time each week to stop what you’re doing and to engage with one of the accelerators. Read the material, reflect on the questions and actions, and then go back to work. Over the next day or two, think about those questions and actions.
When you are ready, take a few more moments to sit down and do what leaders do—answer the questions, plan the necessary activities, and then take action! I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. When you’re ready, I’d love to hear about the impact. Give me a shout. It would be an honor to speak with you.