By Kim Walker
More and more data is now available to businesses and we are living in the age of disruption. Utilising this information should be transformative. Uber and Airbnb illustrate the power of disruption but is it the right tool for every organisation?
Is it right for your business?
We also exist in a ‘reputation economy’ meaning that reputation has increased value. New York’s Reputation Institute tracks and analyses stakeholder perceptions across 40 countries. It’s executive partner Kasper Ulf Nielsen has the perception that what a business stands for now has more importance than what it sells.
The Reputation Institute’s acknowledges that building a reputation takes time. Business known for high quality products and processes makes an attractive choice for consumers, which builds loyalty to that business. These established businesses with a history of success create a legacy. Although popular disruption may risk that customer loyalty, so transformative change may not be the best option. Innovation however is a priority.
Focus on innovation
Recently I had the privilege of facilitating a thought provoking conversation on innovation at the HR Leaders Forum hosted by Head Resourcing. What was evident during the discussion from the broad range of businesses represented is that innovation is a focus for every organisation.
What is the value of innovation?
As we saw during the recent economic recession innovation is the driver of growth, it increases competition and as a consequence increases business value.
Innovation is also good for employees. It heightens engagement and motivation as people feel that they can make a more meaningful contribution by innovating. Furthermore, they feel more aligned to the organisation. There is an increased feeling of being able to influence and to capitalise on the opportunities or overcome the challenges faced within the business.
Encouraging innovation in the workplace
Albert Einstein famously said; ‘we cannot solve the problem with the same people who created it’. This sums up the challenge of encouraging innovation for many organisations.
Most employees are focussed upon delivering their assigned tasks. They become so close to the work being done that often they cannot see the wood for the trees. While time is an increasingly precious commodity and the value of activity and busyness has increased, innovation requires the space and time to think.
Forward thinking business make time for their employees to think and therefore innovate.
Recognising the need to give employees dedicated time to be creative and innovative; Head Resourcing set up cross functional working groups to guide and drive forward each of its organisation goals. Lee Murray, Director of Head Resourcing said “We listened to our teams who were keen to get more involved in the execution of our business strategy, bringing ideas and expertise to the table and fundamentally making a difference to the business”
Gmail is a great example of the output of this approach. Google developer Paul Buchheit was aware of the need for a search facility within the company’s internal mail and the need for more storage space and Gmail as we know it today was the innovative result. The phenomenal 1GB they offered beta testers initially had to be run on three hundred old Pentium III computers but it paved the way for over 1 billion users today.
Our discussion at the HR Leaders Forum highlighted that some organisations are facilitating processes designed to help cross functional groups innovate. Although still embryonic these appear to be having some success. The outputs range from more efficient ways of doing things, heightened customer insight and understanding to the introduction of new products.
Managing fast paced change
I often read that we are on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution. What this means is difficult to predict with any degree of accuracy. We do know that the pace of change is accelerating and innovation gives organisations agility.
Our discussion concluded that organisations that are most successful at innovating have a clear link between innovation and strategy. This relationship gives focussed attention to innovation ensuring that it is a priority on the agenda and is led from the top.
Sarah Prasad, Senior HR Business Partner at Head Resourcing highlights that ‘translating innovative strategy into action also requires a clear ‘signal’ from leadership that risk-taking and failure is acceptable. For a business to be truly innovative, their people need to feel encouraged to take risks, get things wrong, learn from mistakes and move forward. This requires a culture of trust, openness and resilience as well as an employee experience that rewards and harnesses innovation.’
Disruption may not be a business priority but innovation most certainly is. Attention is now being given to enhancing the capabilities of people to make this a success.