How is Change Management Different from Innovation?

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

Welcome to Cummings Collaborative. Thanks for reading our inaugural post. With our recent launch just a few months ago, we have definitely embarked on the most exciting and rewarding journey of our careers. Organizations are challenged with daunting expectations to constantly improve, so we collaborate with them and create solutions that allow breakthrough innovation. We want to empower greatness; within individuals, teams and organizations.

We've had many conversations recently with people across various industries. The focus of their curiosity almost always moves to one of two concepts - innovation and change management. Our discussions are compelling and provoked the topic of our first blog: How is change management different than innovation?

Change management focuses on people-centered aspects surrounding organizational change.

Innovation is an intentional, proactive process of discovery that requires a change to something you are currently doing or the creation of something new.

An organization that embraces and respects open dialogue will provide an organic culture that is ripe for innovation.

Listen to what’s being said around you. Do you hear comments like these? Something has to happen. Things can’t keep going like they are. Business has to turn around. People need to listen to each other. That next big idea has to surface soon. If things don’t change, the unimaginable might happen.

Feedback and responses to these comments walk us into an interesting debate exploring the differences between change management and innovation.

Let’s start with change management. Change management can apply to everything, right? If anything is changing and you are managing it, then isn’t that change management? Not necessarily.

The primary purpose of change management is to create strategies that effectively lead people within an organization that is confronting change. It considers the methods, processes and resources that support people while they strive to achieve specific outcomes. Mostly, it’s an intentional attempt to understand and manage organizational change and the impact that change has on people.

Innovation, on the other hand, tends to be a process - time-consuming, taunting great risk and yielding extraordinary results. Usually it’s a proactive attempt to do something different requiring intention and deliberation. Oftentimes innovation is seeded with a lot of benchmarking, stakeholder input, research and discovery. Not typically reactive or disruptive, it brings about organizational change, both internal and external

To understand innovation, think of it as a process that provides you with something new. It can spawn from an evolutionary process, more an alteration or iterative change to what you had before. Or, it can be a revolutionary process, meaning it results in something that is really different from what existed before. Innovations are rarely rapid and do not happen overnight.

Never an end point, innovation is ongoing; a temporary destination along the journey of organizational greatness.

Let’s look at the dynamic relationship that exists between change and innovation. Things change all the time. Change does not require innovation. However, innovation does require change. And, change management can occur without innovation as an outcome. Yet, a successful innovation will always need change management to ensure adoption and some measure of success. Bottom line, organizations that thrive on innovation embrace a culture of change and recognize it as a necessity in today’s competitive global economy.

In order to identify appropriate outcomes and strategies that ensure purposeful forward movement, gather your stakeholders and engage them in a conversation about ways that your organization can do things differently. Listen intently and let their ideas flow freely. Be brave and create a process that allows some of these ideas to be explored and tested; allow them to come to life as much as you dare.

Change management is people-centered. Innovation is a process that can result in just an alteration to something or the creation of something altogether new.

Encourage your organization to embrace and respect open dialogue so you can establish a culture that is ripe for innovation.

Remember, innovation is not an end-point. It’s an ongoing process that provides remarkable destinations along the path to your organization’s greatness. Innovation can be time-consuming, yet it yields such extraordinary results.

Give it a try; innovation sparks innovation. In the next 7 to 10 days see how many stakeholder groups you can engage; encourage new ideas to emerge. Open the doors and be ready for all the great ideas to flow.

Let us know how your conversations go and what 2-3 ideas you decide to invest in.


That’s all for now. Thank you for reading, sharing your ideas, and walking with us on this journey.

Please connect and let us know how you're doing. We’d love to hear what is most pressing for your organization and what you'd like us to explore in future blogs.


Nancy H. Cummings

Learn more about Nancy H. Cummings, Founder & President of Cummings Collaborative

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