What is Innovation?

What is Innovation?

Innovation is fundamental to the sustainable growth of businesses and their departments. To maintain this growth, a systematic approach is essential, understanding where and how the transformation should commence. Innovation encapsulates the act of introducing newness. Successful innovation mandates the adoption of external changes to enhance outcomes. The process of innovation should be customer-centric, data-driven, predictable, and should focus on long-term competitive advantage instead of one-off successes.

Consultation in the field of innovation management, alongside strategies like reorganization and cost reduction, is becoming a top concern for CEOs. While innovation is a major disruptive force, companies often fail because they approach it as if it's mere artistry. Mere brainstorming and creative ideas are not enough for success. Hence, innovation management consultancy aids by offering apt advice and by swiftly enhancing productivity.

Why is Innovation Management Necessary?

Mapping out the innovation process. Innovation management offers an overarching view of the entire innovation process, helping senior management pinpoint areas of improvement. This also aids in the identification of fresh ideas and evaluates their alignment with the company's broader vision.

Better prediction of market conditions. Innovation management provides insights into market shifts, helping to predict changes, identify new market segments, and monitor consumer trends. It also recognizes competition in existing business models and suggests counteractive measures.

Encouraging effective communication, instilling motivation, and guiding curiosity and innovation. Motivated leadership, effective communication, and innovative thinking are paramount for a project's success. Leaders should be open to new challenges and willing to adapt their traditional strategies to handle them.

Ensuring the right timing for market entry and mitigating risks of delayed innovation. Misjudged timing of innovative steps is a primary reason for project failures. Delayed product or service launches can cause companies to lose their competitive edge. Both senior management and staff need to be in tune with market shifts and direct the innovation process to embrace these changes.

Strategizing and managing the innovation process from a business perspective. Innovation management necessitates clear allocation and documentation of all responsibilities linked to innovation to relevant personnel.

Building the leadership of the future. A major aim of innovation management is to cultivate future leaders within an organization. This starts by recruiting talented individuals open to mentorship and showcasing a strong inclination towards innovative thinking. Having strong and innovative leadership alone isn't enough; an effective innovation governance system is equally crucial.

What is an Innovation Strategy?

An innovation strategy isn't about tactics like creating an idea challenge. Instead, it's about mapping an organization's mission, vision, and value proposition for its defined customer markets, serving as a clear roadmap for the desired future.

Having a unified vision and shared innovation objectives in your organization combats silos and boosts operational efficiency. Your innovation goals should not diverge from your broader business objectives. For instance, when thinking of marketing, you wouldn't segregate your marketing strategy from your broader business aims. Instead, you'd want your marketing strategies and initiatives to contribute to your overall business plan and vision.

The same holds true for innovation. Before setting out to devise an innovation strategy, be aware of how innovation aids in achieving your goals. Aligning your innovation strategy with broader business objectives is among the most challenging tasks. So much so that 54% of innovative companies find bridging the gap between their innovation strategy and business goals challenging.

To succeed in strategy alignment, aim to instill and steer the role of innovation across all departments. Ensuring innovation is fully integrated into a broader business strategy is the sole way to foster sustainable innovation.

How Do You Manage Innovation?

Determine the innovation strategy. Collaborate with senior leaders to identify how change trends potentially impact the business and industry. Then, locate opportunities in what might seem like a chaotic environment using multiple types of innovation.

Design, develop, and initiate innovations. Use insights to transform business concepts within the scope of innovation. Strategies, market analysis, and corporate analytics help in developing, testing, iterating, and refining new concepts. Utilize visualizations, storyboard sessions, and other illustrative techniques for this purpose.

Become better innovators. Sustainable innovation activity requires discipline, competence, and experience. Integrate innovation across the organization, refine management structures, establish metrics, and foster an innovation mindset. This allows you to hone innovation skills, systems, and structures tailored to your organization.

Adopt a balanced approach. Focus on the company's strengths and customer-centric issues to identify opportunities and prioritize specific ventures.

A Case Study: How Did Apple Organize for Innovation?

Apple is renowned for its innovations in hardware and software services. A lesser-known fact about Apple is the significant role its organizational design and leadership model played in its success.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he noticed a convoluted product line and several 'me-too' initiatives that didn't align with Apple's core competencies. In response, Jobs reduced the product line from dozens to just a handful, ensuring Apple's offerings had a clear identity.

Under Jobs, Apple reorganized its structure to be functionally organized rather than divisionally organized. This means there were no separate P&Ls for individual product lines. Instead, senior VPs had functional roles overseeing the entire product line.

This unique organizational structure avoided the pitfall of divisional rivalries and promoted cooperation. Innovation was at the heart of Apple's strategy, allowing the company to introduce disruptive products that transformed multiple industries.

To conclude, innovation, while essential, can be challenging. Its management is crucial for the successful deployment and implementation of innovative ideas. The process requires continuous evaluation, feedback, and adaptation, and a deep understanding of the target market. Apple serves as a stellar example of innovation done right.

What is HR Innovation?

HR innovation pertains to the adoption of new ideas, methodologies, and technologies to better cater to the evolving demands of an organization and its workforce. Rather than merely responding to current circumstances, it encompasses predicting future needs and conditions.

There are two kinds of HR innovations: radical and incremental. A prime example of radical HR innovation is Google's '20% Project,' where employees are allocated 20% of their paid work time to pursue personal projects. This initiative by Google led to positive HR outcomes such as improved motivation, performance, retention, and talent attraction.

On the other hand, incremental HR innovations involve tweaks to existing HR practices in institutions. Though not as groundbreaking as radical ones, they contribute significantly to organizational transformation. Examples include the integration of various digital tools due to HR process digitalization and providing opportunities for employees to enhance their skills.

Regardless, studies have shown that both radical and incremental HR innovations add value to organizations. HR innovation can occur in a single HR domain, like recruitment or compensation, but can also span across multiple domains, thus creating potential synergies. Effective HR innovation implementation demands alignment with other HR practices within the organization and with the company's strategic goals.

Starting with Innovation in Human Resources

Constant innovation is essential in evolving businesses, and it's the role of HR professionals to drive this. Innovation can be nurtured and shaped through the responsibilities of HR.

A progressive and culturally innovative workplace implies team members experiencing more personal growth and advantages, including:

  • Enhanced job satisfaction
  • Personal skill enhancement
  • Increased vitality
  • Greater focus and engagement in tasks
  • Less anxiety when facing challenges
  • Accelerated work pace
  • Opportunities for leadership

"Innovation heightens employee engagement, leading to a more connected team and greater profitability for your enterprise."

To discern the initial steps towards the HR innovation your institution needs, assemble with colleagues and answer the following three main questions:

  1. What are the most significant HR-related obstacles for the company and why?

    • Which are internal, which are external?
    • How are you currently addressing these barriers?
    • Who are the stakeholders involved?
  2. Why are these obstacles so crucial?

    • What's the root cause of this issue?
    • In an ideal scenario, what should differ from the current situation?
    • What are specific barriers to your institution?
  3. What are at least three innovative ways to address this problem?

    • How can you reframe the issue?
    • Whom do you need to resolve it?
    • Which arguments will convince them to assist you?
    • What are the first three steps to solve the issue? (Consider smaller steps)
    • What challenges do you anticipate for these steps, and how can you overcome them?

Deliberating on these questions with a dedicated group of peers will grant you valuable insights. By translating these insights into actionable steps, you can genuinely ignite the necessary innovation within your institution.

Unlocking the Power of Innovation: 6 Strategies

Understand the Process

Innovation is a journey, not just a brainstorming session. Leaders must have realistic expectations about what innovation offers. Patience is key. As Michael Mitchell, senior lecturer at the Center for Creative Leadership says, "New ideas don’t always reveal their worth immediately. They need time to grow and prove themselves."

Before expecting employees to contribute to innovation, they need to grasp its meaning and significance within the company. Clearly define expectations for them. HR can set quantitative targets and provide the resources to achieve them.

If HR doesn’t champion an innovative culture within its own realm, expecting the broader company to do so is futile. HR staff at the University of Maine System meet quarterly to brainstorm and debate ideas. DeMay suggests, “Create your think-tank. Regular brainstorming sessions, be it monthly or quarterly. Think about the challenges affecting employees.”

At BetterUp, a mobile coaching firm in San Francisco, a leader of a rapidly growing team had to ensure new team members contributed effectively from the get-go. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, the Chief Innovation Officer, partnered with HR to devise a specialized coaching program.

Differentiate in Talent Acquisition

While technical skills can be taught, locating innate creativity can be challenging. Instead of just focusing on experience and tangible skills, hone in on skills necessary for innovation, like collaboration and change management.

Rethink interview questions to identify these skills. Michael Stanleigh, CEO of Business Improvement Architects, advises asking candidates about their innovative ideas and their outcomes.

Create Space for Innovation

Special spaces that deviate from the daily work environment, disrupting thought processes and fostering face-to-face interactions, are crucial for igniting innovation.

Provide resources like comfortable workspaces, couches, tables, partitions for small group gatherings, smart boards, whiteboards, and other tools to help capture innovative ideas.

Cultivate Leaders

While traditional corporate training focuses on minimizing risk, innovative leaders need to embrace risks and uncertainties.

You can engage managers with hands-on exercises. Encourage idea generation by posing thought-provoking questions. By the end of their training, they should possess innovative thought processes.

BetterUp offers "trial office hours" to help staff at various skill levels test new roles. They also provide one-on-one coaching for all employees to hone skills like focus, confidence, and risk tolerance.

Align Innovation Efforts with Performance Reviews

Employees naturally devote time to tasks they're assessed on. If companies desire innovation, they must measure employees’ efforts towards it. Evaluate how creatively an employee thinks, their openness to new methods, and adaptability to change. Change can come from anywhere, and organizations must be ready.

Share Stories of Creativity

Stories form an integral part of an organization's collective memory. HR should be deliberate about the stories they recount. Organizations where most talked-about tales revolve around creativity inspire others, fostering an innovative culture.

HR’s Role in Innovation

The past two years have seen drastic changes in business processes due to COVID-19 and technological advancements. HR's role in not just managing employees but setting standards for business operation in this changed world has become crucial. As companies navigate the nuances of remote work and social distancing while trying to maintain profitability, let’s discuss some innovative HR practices and trends that can benefit businesses of all sizes.

Support the Transition to Remote Work

Even post-pandemic, remote work will persist. HR plays a pivotal role in ensuring employees adapt to working efficiently amidst home distractions and away from the conducive office environment. Innovations like logistical support to set up a home office and reshaping benefits to fit the remote working scenario can be implemented.

Emphasize Work-life Balance

Remote working can blur the lines between professional and personal time, leading to extended work hours. HR can champion a balanced work-life approach to prevent burnout. This includes implementing communication cut-off times, non-working weekends, and focusing on deliverables rather than clocked hours.

Enhance Workplace Diversity

As our world becomes interconnected, having diverse voices that offer fresh perspectives is essential. Practices like having diverse senior leadership and using AI for skill-based shortlisting can help eliminate hiring biases.

Embrace Millennial and Gen Z Leadership

For businesses to thrive in a post-pandemic world, agility and innovative decision-making are paramount. This calls for the leadership of tech-savvy, visionary, and risk-taking millennials and Gen Z.

Integrate Workforce Analytics into Decision-making

Smart use of data can revolutionize operational efficiency. Investing in HR software can give insights into performance trends over time, attrition rates, promotions/transfers, and employee sentiment. This data can guide decisions in recruitment, training, and maintaining company culture.

Talent Management

One of the first things that comes to mind when talking about talent management and HR innovation is the “Talent Management Dashboard”. It offers recruiters and managers a comprehensive view of talent pools. This dashboard streamlines communication with talents and their development, aiding in future planning.

The 5 Core Functions of Talent Management

  • Reporting
  • Managing performance
  • Engaging with talent
  • Learning and development
  • Talent strategy

Focus on Performance Management

HR can collaborate with managers and employees to create performance measures that align both with company goals and employee interests. This can move the focus from traditional annual reviews to a continuous feedback approach.

Invest in Learning and Development

Whether remotely or in-person, all employees should have similar opportunities for learning and growth. Incorporate training modules, online diplomas, certificates, additional projects, and inter-departmental engagements as part of the virtual learning & development strategies. Team leads should encourage these activities and guide those eager to acquire additional skills.

Making Automation the Standard

With the global shift towards virtual interactions, automation becomes essential for efficiency. HR can lead in selecting tools like Employee Self-Service (ESS) portals and payroll management software to simplify tasks and save time and money. Automation enhances transparency and accountability in daily operations and lets employees have more control over functions.

Organizational Growth

Innovation is a hallmark of growth-focused organizations. An organization is ready for advancement only when its innovation culture overpowers resistance to change. Innovative endeavors within the company's departments, among employees, and hierarchical structures foster organizational growth.

Managing the Employee Experience

The future of the employee experience is evolving. Traditional factors of workplace satisfaction like salaries and bonuses are being sidelined. Employee engagement now hinges on an experiential journey. This entails perceptions of various touchpoints - be it physical, technological, cultural, or environmental - throughout an employee's lifecycle. These elements are now considered foundational to measuring the employee experience.

Ways to innovate in employee experience:

  • Enhance diversity and inclusivity
  • Improve the onboarding experience
  • Embrace flexible work ecosystems
  • Adopt agile HR practices
  • Utilize workforce analytics for measurement and optimization
  • Boost communication
  • Use technology as an enabler, irrespective of generational differences

Workforce Planning

Workforce planning provides HR with a holistic view of the workforce and how talent strategies align with business objectives. Done right, it can lead to greater innovation, talent acquisition, and process improvement within an organization. Supported by advanced and predictive analytics, decisions based on information and data are facilitated. There's a belief in shifting from traditional job roles to focusing on the tasks that constitute a job. Diving deeper into how tasks are allocated, where overlaps occur, and which activities will be vital or obsolete in the future is essential.

The way we work, from broad concepts to our actual workplaces, is changing rapidly. Even if the adoption of HR technology is still emerging, the need for HR innovation is evident.

As the world prepares to embrace a new norm, HR can play a pivotal role as a change agent for the organization. Keeping best HR practices in mind can help design forward-thinking policies that benefit employees and promote business growth. You can unlock your team's potential with an innovative culture and shape your organizational design.