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Most of us “play it by ear” when it comes to the execution of a new concept. Our focus is on acquiring ideas or information—planning, reading, discussing, hearing or analyzing them. When it comes to execution, we rely on the same old tools we always used and settle for ad hoc activities and initiatives. Yet one cannot achieve systems-wide change by “understanding” the concept or generating detailed plans. What these require are fundamental changes in the way organizations think and behave.

It is the execution of change rather than the ideas, themselves, where the rubber meets the road. Paradoxically, however, there are no tools or systems approaches for “executing” innovation.

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An article in Harvard Business Review, titled The Performance Management Revolution reports that more than one-third of U.S. companies are abandoning the traditional annual performance review in favor of less formal, more dynamic and frequent “check- ins” with employees throughout the year. These conversations provide immediate performance feedback in specific contexts and aim at future improvement rather than rewards or punishment.

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Making innovation happen requires a shift in mindset. Case in point: Association for Financial Professionals. CEO Jim Kaitz approaches expansion by building organizational capabilities to constantly adapt to the
speed and nature of market change. Kaitz does not marginalize change by reducing it to new product launches or isolated initiatives outside of AFP’s core business. Instead, he lets small-scale successes and lessons learned catalyze broader changes to the association and disrupt business as usual.

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