4 ways Internal Communication can turn change to its advantage


As the global marketplace continues to become faster and more complex, Internal Communication (IC) must evolve to meet it. Thriving, not merely surviving, in the midst of change is what’s needed. Megan Sheerin explores four smart shifts internal communicators must make to keep pace.

If there’s one thing that tires the hardiest of communicators, it’s relentless, unpredictable change. The kind that frustrates Internal Communication’s day-to-day work as much as its long-term planning. The kind that buries us under old strategies, communication plans—and complaints from employees that what we previously communicated to them is no longer relevant.

In today’s complex and fast-paced world, near-constant change is a given. Companies that can adapt—and quickly—have a competitive edge. Managing this change successfully is where Internal Communication can help. Yet knowing where to start can be overwhelming, especially when we’re dealing with deeply entrenched workflows that once worked well.

Letting go of, or adapting, some long-held paradigms is the key to communicators meeting the expectations of an increasingly fast and more complex global marketplace. But you can’t simply drop a new approach on top of an existing one and expect to win. Before you tackle changing processes and structures, it’s critical to first shift attitudes and beliefs. Only then will your Internal Communication function—and organization—reap the benefits.

Melcrum’s research reveals four paradigm shifts IC should consider, to achieve exactly that:

1. Moving from extensive, sequential planning to adaptive, iterative planning.

Rigid sequential planning wrongly assumes change happens only before or after a communications campaign. But in reality, change can occur at any point during a campaign—or even throughout it. This means as internal communicators, we need to revamp our linear planning processes to be more adaptable. It’s about being flexible and learning as change takes place, then revising our next steps to take that new knowledge into account.
EMC is one company that does this well.

The IC function in this leading IT company manages its campaigns in short cycles—working in ‘communication sprints’ to create intermittent deliverables, in turn pulling forward returns on their campaign investments. Internal Communication works alongside its Marketing partner organization to scale these campaigns quickly, pulling in expert resources from across the enterprise and prioritizing important campaigns so that everyone is aligned.

2. Moving from favoring the change curve to employee moments of truth.

The linear change curve assumes employees progress through change in a predictable way. It’s a framework that’s served Internal Communication well in guiding workflows when the business environment was more stable. However employees today are more likely to jump around, skip over and jolt backward as they learn to adapt to change—especially when it keeps occurring and employees have more and better information sources to refer to.

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Overcome barriers to innovation with Disruptive Thinking

This is a summary of our recent event – Overcoming Barriers to Innovation, where we talked about disruptive thinking.

As communications professionals, we often see innovation as happening elsewhere – ideas and initiatives created by other teams or outsourced to agencies rather than bringing creativity into their everyday workplace. IABC UK members, friends and guests came together in Circus Communications’ gallery on Tuesday to change this and to disrupt our own thinking.


UK chapter president Tessa O’Neill opened the panel debate offering three messages communicators should keep in mind to overcome barriers to innovation:

  • the communications function is primed to innovate because it’s in a privileged situation of having oversight about so many internal and external stakeholders
  • innovation provides an opportunity for communications to take leadership
  • innovation allows communications to be creative

Moderated by Circus Communications’ Louise Barfield, the high-profile panel kicked off the debate.

The IABC’s own punk rocker and communications consultant Ezri Carlebach set the motto for the discussion by highlighting what innovation and punk rock have in common: they want to provoke a reaction – “punk did more to invigorate the UK economy than Margaret Thatcher and her deregulation policies”.

Dik Veenman, founder of The Right Conversation, reminded us that innovation exists in all organisations but that it is too often processed out in a rush to judgment.

Gorkan Ahmetoglu, business and consumer psychologist and Director of Digital Enterprise at Goldsmiths College, approached the topic from a psychology angle and shared his insight into the environment that influences innovation and creativity: “It is a problem for innovation when failed ideas are not rewarded or even punished. Leadership values that encourage creative thinking are needed“.

Cesar Lastra, innovation expert and international speaker, chimed in and emphasised the importance of creating a culture of belief and strategy that allows innovation to happen – “ innovation isn’t a job description, it’s a culture”.

Consequently, three themes emerged as the keys to innovation: People, Environment they are working in, and How we talk to each other within that environment.

Panelists and the audience bounced ideas off each other in an engaging debate discussing where innovation came from.
Great quotes of the day:

  • “100 years ago innovation was called art”
  • “before it was called innovation, it was called muse”

The speakers agreed that something is innovative only if it creates something new and adds value, and wondered whether the introduction of KPIs and other measurement killed innovation. Knowing your purpose and what you are good at was also deemed important to identify which kind of innovation will drive your business forward.

Cesar Lastra: “don’t act as if you have to be the next Apple

Time flew by and over a final glass of wine and some snacks everyone agreed that communicators are indeed in a prime position to drive innovation and should continue to work to overcome the barriers to innovation and creativity and place them at the heart of communications.

View pictures from the event on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/iabcuk/


A big Thank You goes to all speakers and the IABC UK team for organising this inspiring event.

Kristin Heume

Article written by Kristin Heume
LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/kristinheume/en
Twitter: @kheume



Check our Twitter feed during the event via #innochat @iabcuk



Our panel of speakers:

Cesar Lastra – Innovation expert and international speaker. Cesar Lastra is a London-based independent consultant who has been based in the US, Latin America and Europe in FMCG and agency roles, from where he has developed a unique expertise combining strategy, insights, marketing capability and ideation.

Dik Veenman – Founder of The Right Conversation and expert in dialogue and effective team conversations, including brainstorms. Dik has 20 years experience as a communication consultant, including MD of pioneering internal communication agency Smythe Dorward Lambert in the 1990’s. He is a qualified Executive Coach and has extensive experience of enabling conversations at all levels for a wide range of organisations in many different geographies. Dik has an MBA from London Business School and a degree in Chemical Engineering from Imperial College. In his spare time he mentors troubled teenagers.

Ezri Carlebach – Innovation consultant, writer and lecturer. Watch a story-telling workshop video conducted by Ezri.

Gorkan Ahmetoglu – Business and consumer psychologist and Director of Digital Enterprise at Goldsmiths College. Gorkan’s pioneering research on Entrepreneurship was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and he is also active in the areas of leadership, behavioural economics, and consumer psychology. Despite his relatively short academic career, Gorkan has already published numerous research articles in scientific journals, and his first book, Personality 101, will be published later this year. Gorkan is an associate of Harvard’s Entrepreneurial Finance Lab.