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Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

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Getting innovation – why HR involvement is vital

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There is an old saying, which runs “I want never gets”. Used by parents from time immemorial it is a standard response when children are pestering for treats, sweets or anything else. But however much we hear the phrase in childhood, as we grow into adults the temptation is still to believe that “I want” equals “it will happen”. 

Of course as rational adults we know that nothing good comes without hard work but as leaders it can still be tempting to think that our every whim and every pronouncement will be acted on by others. For example we know that transforming our business into one, which is innovation ready, is a 21st Century imperative but simply announcing that the business is going change is not enough. Creating a ‘Next Generation Organisation’ requires three core areas of focus, Insight, Collaboration and Agility and these in turn often require a transformation in the company culture and ethos. 

Despite the “talent” shows which abound on TV, seemingly preaching the message of instant success without hard work, the reality is that nothing good ever came without hard work and this is as true in business as it is in singing. So when organisations decide to adapt in order to build innovation capability, it will require a significant shift in the structure and outlook of the organisation. Key to this is the way in which HR and training are engaged in the new order.

From a strictly HR point of view, the shift may require a change in reporting lines and in departmental structures as the organisation moves towards a more open and collaborative way of working. The very essence of innovation, encouraging initiative, turning failure into a learning point, may require a redrafting of operational and procedural manuals alongside a shift in emphasis on recruitment. Reward structures and metrics may need to be rewritten as the emphasis moves towards creating an exceptional customer experience and this will in turn require HR to institute new methods of measuring behaviour and activity around the innovation agenda.

But even with all of this redrafting and re-measurement nothing will happen unless people are guided along the innovation pathway. For innovation to succeed it is necessary to permeate the entire organisation with the innovation message. Key training points include:

Situational leadership: Innovation leadership is not just about the leadership team or the CEO. Anyone in the organisation can lead the innovation drive at any given time, with innovation champions sitting at every level.

When to lead and when to manage? Learning when to lead and when to manage is vital if innovation is to flourish. Effectively it is learning to open out initiative, to be hands ready not hands on; giving people support and permission to innovate and the room to do so.

Collaboration for innovation: A fundamental component of ‘open innovation’ is the breaking down of barriers and silos in order to extend the innovation reach outside the organisation. But shifting from a closed hierarchical mentality to one in which people network, seek insight, expertise and involvement from others, especially from outside the organisation, requires more than a flick of the switch. Careful training in the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ approach is required to help employees to assimilate new concepts of approach and collaboration.

Innovation process. Despite what you may think or have been led to believe, innovation isn’t all about chaos. For innovation to be effective there has to be a process for developing ideas and opportunities. Training people to champion the use of these processes not only ensures that good ideas are adopted, it also helps to ensure that time is not wasted in non-starters.

It doesn’t matter whether HR and training are one and the same or entirely different departments. Adopting an innovation pathway means working together, collaborating on implementation and helping employees to embrace an entirely different approach. The leadership team may say “I want” but unless the hard work goes into changing approaches and guiding employees in the adoption of the requisite skills and behaviour the organisation will never ‘get’ innovation.

Everyone says they want or even need to innovate but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few, get in touch and let’s talk.

Got a question? Ask me… cris@crisbeswick.com

Author Profile Picture
Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick
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