Change or Transformation? Sheep-dip Innovation or Committed Innovation?


“Change is painful, and people are always reticent to accept a lot of pain.” — Stanley McChrystal

In a business environment characterised rapid change being flexible and adaptable to change is an increasingly coveted skill. Change is one of the most difficult things for human beings. Considerable research reveals that when patients with heart disease who have undergone traumatic heart bypass surgery are told that they need to change their lifestyle or they will die a mere 9% are able to change. Change is literally painful, it involves rewriting familiar mental patterns and relinquishing old habits.


For regular readers of The Thursday Thought, you will have heard me say that you cannot change business models until you change mental models. Because organisations are a mass of individuals, most individuals will resist change no matter how beneficial that change may be. Over 70% of corporate change initiatives fail. Often this is because there is a failure to change hearts and minds of those who will enact the change, but a contributing factor is “sheep-dip innovation”.

The focus of this Thursday Thought is a question to ponder, are you or the organisation you work for truly committed to transformation or are you buying time with restructures, consultants and busyness?

Sheep-Dip Innovation


The process of sheep dipping is the immersion of the animals in water containing insecticides and fungicide. In my work in corporate transformation, I use “sheep dip” to refer to corporate training that is “cosmetic”. By cosmetic I mean that the organisation or the person booking the work is only doing it to tick a box, there is no true desire for transformation. With “sheep-dip training” people are rushed through training with no commitment to lasting change, which takes time.

Characteristics of sheep-dip work are one-off training days with no follow up work. Often, I meet innovation workers who were hired under the guise that they would drive transformation in the business. They were told that they would be the changemaker within the organisation and that senior leadership is fully on board for change. They soon find out that they too were part of a tick-the-box exercise to put lipstick on a pig. The good ones leave the organisation within six to twelve months.

Our guest on the latest Innovation show is Andy Cope. Andy shared an analogy of change versus transformation. I share this analogy to highlight the difference between cosmetic change and true transformation. Imagine for a moment an egg. Inside the egg is a chick who lives happily decorating and redecorating the inside of the egg. The chick keeps itself very busy. It is a nice analogy for how many organisations operate keeping themselves busy with incremental change initiatives. However, true transformation only happens when the egg hatches and the chick discards the old shell and takes on a new existence within a new environment. An effective organisation does both, it operates in a cycle of constant change while keeping an eye on the future for transformational opportunities.

Are You Committed — Be the Pig and the Chicken

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead


The disruption we are experiencing today involves more than incremental changes in technology, people, or competition — it’s all of them at once and this calls for total commitment, not just sheep-dip innovation and not just lipstick on a pig. Tick-the-box initiatives are just wasting your time, resources, and energy. Instead of performing innovation theatre organisations need to make tough calls, make big bets and commit to true transformation.

A very simply way to differentiate between change and commitment is to think of a breakfast fry up. When contributing towards breakfast there is a huge difference between the contributions of a chicken and a pig. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Is your organisation committed to change? Are you? Are your leaders transformational leaders or are they simply custodians of incremental change? To operate in the current business environment, we need to be both.

Thanks for Reading


This week, the Innovation show is episode 193: “Zest: How to Squeeze the Max out of Life”, with author Andy Cope

‘ZEST’ equates to zing, enthusiasm, energy, gusto, eagerness, zeal and fervour.

It also suggests a tang, a sharpness. It’s the opposite of bland.

Today’s book called ZEST is not just a book on personal development. There are an awful lot of those.

Zest is a wake-up call for you to explore the formative moments that define your life. It challenges you to believe that your best days are still ahead, to search your soul, to shake things up and bask in the warmth of glorious individuality.

Today’s episode will help us:

Explore the pivotal, defining moments in your life

Examine both the good and bad experiences that define you

Reconnect to the essence of who you are Embrace your quirks, qualities and peculiarities

Determine to be the person you always wanted to be Zest is your permission to play, your licence to wreak the right kind of havoc.

Moreover, it’s not about pretending to be someone you’re not, it’s about squeezing every last drop out of who you already are.

Have a listen:

Have a Listen:

Web http://bit.ly/2FwsOJw

Soundcloud https://lnkd.in/gBbTTuF

Spotify http://spoti.fi/2rXnAF4

iTunes https://apple.co/2gFvFbO

Tunein http://bit.ly/2rRwDad

iHeart http://bit.ly/2E4fhfl

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