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Breaking the mould: The future of innovation is all about people

No matter what kind of innovation CEOs and executives decide is best for the future of a company, the common thread is people, writes Giovanni Battista Pozza.

This article was originally published on The CEO Magazine

Organisations have a great potential to nurture knowledge, relationships, skills, and, most of all people, all of which can empower innovation. The possibility for innovation is not just a matter of processes and methodologies, creative brainstorming and rapid prototyping — but also culture.

Michael Schrage, one of the world’s most original thought leaders on innovation, purports that innovation is about “the intensity of people’s passion.” It is the winning combination of people and culture, an environment that allows ideas to thrive, and a workplace that contributes to wellbeing and happiness that promotes innovation.

One of the most difficult tasks for any organisation is to build an engine for innovation, an open space where a company can build its future. Ideally, this strategic space promotes innovation in a way most fitting for the company: to increase efficiency, sustain the established business, and to create new growth.

The ability of a business to innovate is in the ability of the business to create an environment that promotes people growth.

No matter what kind of innovation CEOs and executives decide is best for the future of a company, the common thread is people. Promoting innovation in people leads to an inventive workplace culture, which means happy clients and happy employees — and the creation of better products and services.

Business leaders and executives play a fundamental role in this model because they are the only ones that can modify and improve a company’s DNA. It’s obvious that the ability of a business to innovate is in the ability of the business to create an environment that promotes people growth.

Executives are responsible for the management and organisational innovation process. In particular, the role of chief HR officer is fundamental as the person with the knowledge of people’s needs and in evaluating the best employee experience possible.

12 principles for a more innovative workforce

  1. Pursue happiness at work


    This creates a good base for individual and company welfare, which means people can fulfil their potential.
    Care about company culture — allows the organisation to grow according to its values and its purpose. If your company is the tree, the company culture is its roots.

  2. Create a context that matches people’s needs


    Give every member the resources they need to do their best work, whether that’s around an individual’s wellbeing, the workspace in general, or the technology used daily.

  3. Have fun


    This is a key factor to create more satisfied employees. Too often, managers wrongly think that work is the only thing key to maximising production.

  4. Be more democratic


    This allows you to be a unique organisation. Instead of a typical corporate structure, it’s better not to have a rigid hierarchy. Businessman Bill Gore described it as a “latticework” of strong interconnected talents woven together like a tapestry.

  5. Be 99% agile


    To optimise resources, save time and give value to the work of people first, rather than to the number of hours they spend in front of their desks.

  6. Create a great employee experience


    This will attract talent and give good reason to those already in the company to not leave and work elsewhere. It’s important to always have in mind the bigger picture because the employee experience begins with the hiring announcement and ends with the last day of work.

  7. Be 50% digital, 50% human


    One for the CIOs: this means allowing people to use technologies where needed, but leaving the rest to individual ability.

  8. Foster customer happiness


    Creating favourable conditions for the employees who work in areas that touch the market, like customer support, to ensure the relationship between client and brand is a happy one.

  9. Let people be diverse and inclusive


    This allows the company to create universal products and services giving value to all points of views and individual expertise.

  10. Rely on EQ (emotional intelligence) more than IQ


    Hire for attitude and personality traits, and train for skills, because a good company culture starts with successful hires. Companies of the future are recognising this value.

  11. Escape the culture of average


    Foster and encourage the talent that will make the company grow faster. This will in turn provide an example
    for those working around them.

Overall, there are many advantages to promoting innovation in the workforce. An organisation that contributes to social and professional growth of its workforce contributes to the wellbeing of its people in their personal life too — and both result in the benefit of innovation. It’s a win–win for businesses and for people.

September 6, 2019