The Painstaking Work of Business Renovation - Brass Tack Thinking

Even change requires a discerning, selective eye.

We’ve discussed before our need to make room for both innovation AND improvement when it comes to creating more social businesses.

I’ll grant you that innovation is the word that scares a lot of people, because it’s loaded. That’s why it gets a lot of airtime. It implies big change, big differences, unfamiliar things, learning stuff all over again. Big change is scary, and it’s naturally understood why we’d resist it, so it offers easy points for discussion and commiseration.

But what many businesses are also struggling with as they adopt social business ideals – more than you think – is the process of renovation, of improving upon what they already do.

It’s a bit like buying a beautiful, historic house that needs some updating. It’s got good bones, but needs desperately to be made habitable again and brought up to the codes and living standards of the day. Some of those updates are going to be cosmetic – paint and floors and windows and stuff. Some might be scarier and more substantial, like fixing a cracked foundation or knocking out a few walls and replacing old wiring.

The difficult part is that building and evolving from an existing structure is painstaking work. It’s sometimes expensive work. It’s often meticulous, requiring immaculate attention to detail in order to bring something up to modern standards without disturbing the history or tradition or character. It can be heartbreaking, like thinking you have a handle on the problem, only to open up the walls and realize that you were completely unprepared for the full extent of the work that needed to be done.

Social business can be as much evolution as revolution. There are many throughlines – culture, relationships, communication – that may require reinterpretation, but not necessarily demolition. Sometimes preservation is important, too.

Innovation! can become a manic battle cry just as badly as the way we’ve always done it! because it can actually be an easier choice than fixing what’s broken. Become desperate enough or overwhelmed enough by the extent of the renovation you need to do, and sometimes knocking it all down and starting fresh can indeed feel like the simpler, cleaner path to take.

But we truly do need both in order to capitalize on this significant business shift. We have to be willing to get intimate with our own businesses once more – to run our hands across the cracked plaster of familiar and sometimes forgotten walls – so that we can make smart decisions about the valuable legacies that deserve their refreshed place in our future, and where new blueprints need to be drawn.

They both have value. Neither one is very easy. But when woven together, they just may allow the best of our history to help become the foundation for our own brilliant future.