Innovating for a better organization: learning from NYC’s mayor

Managing change can be hard. Making people accept that ‘change’ is happening and alter the way they function is harder. Doing both at the same time at a large organization with a ‘set’ way of thinking presents perhaps the biggest challenges to even the most experienced managers. Instilling the belief in people that all of the above can be achieved and harnessing their latent potential to actually do it may seem impossible.

Michael Bloomberg is the current Mayor of New York City having won a third successive term in office. With a net worth of $19.5 billion in 2011, he is also the 12th-richest person in the US. He is the founder and 88% owner of Bloomberg L.P., a financial news and information services media company that makes up one third of the $16 billion global financial data market. So, the has a background in the private sector and may not exactly be heading an ‘organization’. But he certainly offers valuable insights into how he succeeded in “doing the impossible” in an essay that he wrote recently.

In it, he shares his reflections on how he evolved “from managing day-to-day operations into soliciting new ideas and driving the best of them forward.” Explains that the reason why units or divisions of large organizations don’t learn from each other is perhaps because they’ve just never been expected to do so. And outlines empowering the team, removing the barriers and supporting those who fail as three key approaches to drive innovation forward.

Managers and leaders in the private sector are forced to constantly maximize the innovative potential of their staff to respond efficiently and effectively to changes in customer demands. Their choices are very limited – innovate or die! This is what brings out the best in them – they don’t have the luxury of deeming problems to be “intractable”. And that makes them excellent resources to learn from for development professionals. A development organization may not “go out business” if it fails to acknowledge and understand the changing nature of clients’ problems. It may remain in the good books of donors even after tacidly accepting defeat at the hands of the great “unsolvables.” But should we allow ourselves that luxury?

Read the whole essay.

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