July 30, 2021
Inside/Out Innovation


If you work in an organization that wants to establish a sustainable culture of innovation -- you have two basic choices: outside/in or inside/out.

Outside/in is the most common approach. It assumes that re-engineering systems or processes is the way to go. You know the drill: do a little Six Sigma, cost cutting, continuous improvement, hire a few consultants to give pep talks and you're off to the races.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you, but it's often just a slick way of repositioning the deck chairs on your own Titanic. It looks good. It sounds good. You feel like you're doing something, but the ship is still sinking.

The other approach -- inside/out -- is far less common. And why it's less common is because it's slower, initially more chaotic, requires more commitment and, to a lot of left-brained people, seems like voo doo.

The inside/out approach is based on the notion that "organizational change" follows individual change -- understanding, as it does, that an organization is nothing more than a collection of individuals.

The bottom line? Organizations don't change until the people in them do.


In the inside/out approach, each person commits to -- as Mahatma Ghandi put it -- to "being the change you want to see in the world."

Ah... personal responsibility! Personal accountability! Sustained commitment! Even when things get uncomfortable.

Real change does not begin with re-engineering. It does not begin with new initiatives, tweaked processes, compensation plans, reward systems, cost cutting measures, flex time, organic lunches in the cafeteria, or overpriced consultants telling you what to do.

Where does real change begin? It begins with a change of mindset -- what the dictionary defines as "the characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to new situations."

Mindset, not skillset.

MINDSET -- why a pickpocket, every time he meets a saint, will only see pockets. MINDSET -- the cognitive filters we look through that color how we see the world. MINDSET -- why the CFO sees the problem as data, the Chief Marketing Officer sees it as branding, and the IT Director sees it as bandwidth.

The fact is: every single person in your company already knows what to do in order to foster a culture of innovation. They do. They really do. It's common sense. It's just that common sense has become uncommon these days.

Consultants like to make it mysterious, but it's actually very simple.

Does your company's longstanding history of bureaucratic, hierarchical, command-and-control get in the way of each individual operating at their highest potential? Of course it does.

Will re-engineering business processes help? Of course it will. And it is an important piece of the puzzle. But the real deal is NOT a "program". The real deal is each and every person in your organization bringing their innate wisdom to the table every single day. Their highest self. Their best self. Their naturally creative, authentic, passionate, collaborative, go-beyond-the-call-of-duty, opportunity-finding, accountable, engaged, on-fire-with-possibility self.

It's simple.

Simple, unfortunately, is not the same thing as "easy" -- especially these days where so many of us worship at the altar of complexity.

To be continued...

Idea Champions
What we do
What our clients say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 30, 2021 01:01 PM


Inside change simply requires love. Love garners and rallies our intrinsic motivation - all of the great change agents were great lovers.

Posted by: gladys [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2011 11:03 PM

Right on, Gladys! It's all about love. When people love themselves, their work, and the process of making a contribution to the lives of others, everything else falls into place. Without love, there's not a process in the universe that will ever be good enough.

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2011 11:08 PM

That leaves our current socio/economic/political situation in world of despair.

Posted by: gladys [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2011 11:16 PM

That's where you come in, my dear. And me. And a cast of thousands (or millions) who will not despair even though there is a lot to despair about. We may be in the belly of the beast but the beast will not eat us. (Weird image). Anyway, love will save the day. Always has. Always will.

Posted by: Mitch Ditkoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 3, 2011 11:22 PM

All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle! Love always wins!!

Posted by: gladys [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 4, 2011 12:18 AM

Mahatma Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” What does that mean? Well for starters, that it is possible for the actions of one person to make a difference in the world. And that in fact, it’s the only way that change ever occurs. It also means that “leading by example” and taking personal responsibility is essential to making change happen— whether it occurs immediately or gradually over time.

Posted by: Trademark Litigation [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 4, 2011 06:20 AM

Great post,

But the question is: how to dismiss all the communication policies constraints of enterprises and how to make sure people feel comfortable enough to "be themselves" instead of being what they think the others want them to be?

Posted by: Francisco de Rhodes Sérgio [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 22, 2014 07:41 AM

Ha! Repositioning deck chairs on the Titanic is great! I have never heard that before.

On the details, I am not sure if I agree. Yet. :-)
Innovation culture might actually be much less common sense. Sometimes common sense is just not that common. But that might be due to the fact that we have seen different organizations in our past.

What I actually want to contribute is the ADKAR method. From my perspective, it provides a great combination of outside/in and inside/out as you have described it.

A, D, K, A and R are different individual levels of "Willingness and ability to change" (inside/out). Still, the overall objective needs to be decided and clearly communicated (outside/in).

Here's more details:

What's your thought on this, Mitch?

Best Regards

Posted by: Henryk Stoeckert (TOM SPIKE) [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 25, 2022 06:32 AM

Post a comment

Thanks for signing in, . Now you can comment. (sign out)

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Remember me?

Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
Authorized Reseller Logo – GoLeanSixSigma.com
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN