Changing Things Up? Get These 5 People on Board

UPDATED: October 8, 2015
PUBLISHED: April 23, 2015

Perhaps you have a great idea and have been charged with implementing it. Or maybe you have worked your way up from junior management and are now tasked with sharing your new, youthful ideas with a legacy staff that’s been there for years.

Leaders often get tasked to reinvent or bring about change to a business, but even the most successful of them can only be in one place at any given time. Every innovative leader needs an entire cast and crew to help carry out their vision.

You can help stack the deck in favor of the forward movement you want to lead by identifying and enlisting team members in specific roles.

Here are the five people essential to successfully implement innovative ideas in any organization:

1. The Change Agent

The change agent is the one driving innovation—the one with the big idea. They are the person (or entity) that is the force behind an organization making change.

Ideally, this is you; however, there can be outside change agents, such as market conditions, new technology or competition. These change makers challenge your company to innovate and demand change in the basic structure of how work is accomplished.

2. The Champion

The champion is an evangelist for change. They take on the cause behind the reason for the change and share the cause so well, they can recruit more champions to help move the idea forward.

This person is your wingman when it comes to innovative ideas—they like your innovative plans and make sure others understand the need for them, too. In order to talk up your innovation and convince staff to buy in, they should have access to multiple levels of employees. They should also be delegated some level of authority to implement the innovative ideas.

You might find some of your managers are natural champions for your cause. You should train these individuals to spread your message to their subordinates and colleagues.

3. The Opinion Leader

The opinion leader is the one that others listen to. He or she has the ability to develop and influence the attitudes of many other individuals in your organization. Junior staffers emulate their attitudes and go to them when they have issues or need advice.

You don’t need an entire crew of opinionated leaders to successfully implement your innovative ideas, but you do need the ones you have to be vocal. These staff might not inherentlyget your innovative idea, and some of them might even be opposed to it, so your mission will be to help them understand your thought process and to get them to commit to your way of thinking.

You might need to offer them a stake in the success of your idea, perhaps some credit for its successful implementation or new responsibilities within it. Use your people skills to find the best way to motivate these leaders around your ideas.

4. The Change Aide

The change aide is a manager or informal leader who mentors large numbers of staff and can put forth your message to many.

Reach out to change aides with your innovative ideas and plans, and ensure they understand the behind-the-scene roles, where they can help things run smooth on the back end. They’re essential to implementing change and evaluating the effectiveness of the process.

5. The Adopter                                                                                      

The adopter is the rank-and-file individual who you want to embrace your ideas. Without them, your ideas are just that—ideas. Adopters are the individuals on the floor who are tasked with carrying out the change that you introduced. They should be the largest category of individuals in your organization.

Ultimately, you will need most of your organization to be adopters if your innovation is going to be successful. You are likely to see individuals at various levels and stages of adoption, depending on the complexity of your advance. You should notice an increase in numbers and movement along the path of adoption if your innovative ways are successfully taking hold.

You are faced with a challenging task implementing change in an organization. Don’t go at it alone. The sooner you identify individuals to play each role, the sooner your innovation will begin to spread through your organization.

Think you’re fresh out of innovative ideas? Think again. Learn 4 great ways to make breakthroughs.

Victor Yocco is a researcher and strategist at Intuitive Company, a Philadelphia-based design firm. His current speaking and writing interests include strategy and leadership, and interpreting the application of theory and research to digital design.