At ON-Brand Partners we live by the adage that ‘in our fast-paced world, innovation is fundamental to any organisation remaining relevant’. Yet, in so many organisations, innovation is something that is confined to a few teams or areas. As Gary Hamel, the world-renowned business and management thinker has said... “I’m dumbfounded by the fact that so few companies have invested in innovation skills of their frontline employees”.
While we concur, skills alone, are not enough. Creating the environment where forward-looking, possibility-focused, creative exploration is valued is essential for innovation to thrive. In fact, in the past decade the evidence has emerged that for any type of ‘change’ approach (e.g. transformation, continuous improvement, agile, and innovation), getting the culture ‘right’ is essential to creating and sustaining value.
As Peter Williams, Deloitte’s Chief Edge Officer for the Centre for the Edge shared in our webinar: “What now? How organisations can thrive in disruptive times”, psychological safety is one of the essential culture attributes for success.
“People need to feel that they have a voice, to put forward an idea, can stand up an idea, and be supported to have a crack at making it work.”
Unfortunately, as more and more organisations start to hone-in on this factor they are finding they have a problem. There is an emerging pattern across organisations in the public and private sector where people are feeling that it’s not safe to speak up. This is a major issue that leaders must address, both for the wellbeing of their people, and for the performance of the organisation.
Leaders need to explore how enabled their people feel about their ability to drive innovation and support change. Asking these five questions is a good place to start:
When you don’t get these elements right, you’re really stuck in respect to people having confidence in leadership and wanting to moving forward.
Peter Williams also talked of ‘learned helplessness’ – where the odds are stacked against agility and innovation simply due to the organisational culture around how things are done. These self-generated constraints prevent the ability to take action, and can look like:
Many organisations spend far too much time analysing and planning, rather than doing. Leaders need to lead by example to help undo entrenched patterns of learned helplessness and drive new ways of doing things.
What we find with a lot of the change initiatives we partner on is that we’re often addressing big concepts that drive large scale transformation, but the organisation is never really starting with a blank canvas, or completely from scratch if you like. There are bound to be things that are being done well and things not so well. We’ve created this simple Innovation Readiness Tool that will give you a quick snapshot of the type of cultural environment you have in your organisation which can help inform how you may need to change, to open up opportunities for innovation to flourish in your organisation.
The good news is there are things you can start doing right now and longer-term changes you can make to help enable innovation in your organisation. Here’s a selection of ideas that came from the webinar conversation between Paul Stewart and Peter Williams:
If you’d like to learn more about how we can empower, engage and excite your people to embrace innovation in your organisation, get in touch, we’d love to chat.
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