Note to myself: think in terms of innovation acceptance stages for every new project
It could be amasing how easily you can get drawn into mistakes you made before while having necessary knowledge to avoid them...
Let me first tell you about one of the things I has been doing while not blogging :)
I'm coordinating a European project focused on supporting collaboration of innovative small and medium enterprises (iSMEs) in Russia (official title is RUSMECO - Enhancing Russian SME collaboration and business development through COmmunities of practice). It's two year project with business/academic partners in four EU countries and three Russian regions.
The first phase of the project is focused on understanding specific problems Russian innovative SMEs have and then figuring out which of them could be addressed in via "communities" (which is a way to address solutions on information sharing/ learning/ networking/ collaboration spectrum). The original plan was pretty straightforward – start from the literature and doing in-depth interviews with selected iSMEs, use insights to develop and run survey to reach a bigger group and then invite participants for the workshops that provide feedback on the results and discussion on solutions that could work (and then work on developing them).
It didn't work that way – we found out that it was very difficult to motivate iSME representatives to spend their time on interviews and questionnaires. Not only because they are busy anyway, manoeuvring in transitioning economy and changing regulations, but because it was very difficult to explain to them what the project is about because the whole idea of communities was new to them.
Necessary detour. Many KM concepts and practices still have not reached Russian business world (and academia as well) – apart from a few exceptions most of the KM talk there is still about why it could be useful to invest in something like that, rather then deciding what and how to do. Communities of practice, while there as a reality, is not part of conceptual thinking about management and not a format that organisations would deliberately support with some business gains in mind. [more on this]
While dealing with the problem I realised there is something we overlooked during the planning stage: the relation between the degree of understanding the value of communities in business settings and project planning we had laid out. At that moment I thought of a similar mistake I did 6 years ago while planning for e-learning introduction in a university. Similar to 6 years ago I thought of an instrument that could help to prevent it - stages of innovation acceptance by Diane Dormant.
The framework is simple and it's one of the most useful leadership instruments for me (I blogged it three years ago ;). It suggests that in their acceptance of an innovation people move through several stages and that if you want to promote new practices you need a strategy that corresponds to the stage where people are (check the original post for more details on stages and strategies):
In our project most of the planned efforts were focused on demonstrating-training-supporting communities for innovative SMEs while people in our target group were hardly aware of what a community could be for them. After bumping into a number of problems we had to adjust our strategies to advertising and informing, but it would be much smarter to think about it in advance.
So, given that it's a repeated mistake I should make a note to myself to think in terms of innovation acceptance stages for every new project I start. Hopefully it will become a routine while working on planning...