Importance of driving innovation at workplace

Importance of driving innovation at workplace

In today’s dynamic marketplace, Innovation is an essential mantra to enhance business competitiveness and sustainability.

A developing business environment that supports innovation cannot only contribute to employment creation but also to overall economic growth. Promoting multiple and varied forms of workplace innovation is also critical because organisations today operate in challenging environments, prompting the need for increased flexibility and knowledge-based work.

I believe creativity also plays a pivotal function in the innovation process and can help establish the company as a harbinger of performance and positive change. In order to guarantee sustainable business success, companies’ today need to look at the big picture by giving serious consideration to nurturing human creativity, investing more in human resource development and involving employees in strategic business development initiatives.

Organisational innovation

Need for innovation: From a management and organisational perspective, the concept of workplace innovation can encompass a wide range of approaches.
Various types of teamwork, employee empowerment schemes, continuous skill development and learning plans, flexible work organisation arrangements and transparent communication practices can improve working conditions to achieve greater competitiveness and business sustainability.

However, innovations often demand major and far-reaching changes in the underlying organisational philosophy. Even making the decision to adapt a particular form of organisation can be the starting point of a transition process which takes time.

 Teams often make the mistake of carrying a narrow definition of ‘innovation’. They tend to think in terms of patents or in terms of the “next $5-million product idea”. This results in teams being disillusioned about the time and resources required and their inability to contribute to innovation. In order to build a culture of innovation it is good to define innovation as anything that provides additional value to the customer or to the company’s business.

Need for Involvement: Changes in the workplace affect the core of the organisation and should involve all stakeholders from the beginning of the process. It is important to give employees a direct and participative role.

Full information and consultation, as well as open communication can be paramount here. Whether the workplace change is instigated from the top-down, or from the bottom-up, a good social dialogue and agreement on the strategic direction to be followed is essential.

A range of different indicators needs to be collected in order to address the concerns of various groups, including top management, line management, employees and other stakeholders. It is also important that this information is appropriately presented, to each group in order to convince them that the change is in their interest.

Monitoring the Process: It is important that the process and results of workplace innovation are continuously monitored. Although it can be difficult to provide measurable evidence of the advantages of new work systems implemented by merely measuring financial results, it is possible to follow up on certain parameters to evaluate the progress made.

Innovation and employee benefit

Innovation includes product innovations, service innovations, and organisational (procedural or process) innovations, market-led or market-push innovation and technology-led innovations.

The classification is based on the degree of their impact, viz., incremental, radical, or systemic. It is not very easy for employees to come up with new ideas during a stretched schedule and under heavy work pressure, when resources are limited and work takes a lot of time. Therefore it is important to encourage employees to take some time out from their daily routine towards idea generation.

Innovation breaks monotony:  Employees who work on one project for a very long time often complain of monotony. They would want to be part of or contribute to other projects. Encouraging employees to involve themselves in projects other than theirs, gives them an opportunity to showcase their skills. This adds to employee sense of fulfillment and achievement and provides the team working on the project with ideas that are new and out-of-the box, furthering the benefit of implementation.

In order to promote innovation, organisations can actually set-up groups, often referred to as  ‘Innovation Councils’ and that  play a catalytic role in ideation, idea validation, fortification and concept demonstration. This team works  with the team leads of each business unit to explore how to adapt the idea to for practical business.

These groups are often led by technical experts to provide assistance on implementation. The council further helps the teams bring in new ideas right up to a demonstrable stage, and then present it to the management.

There is no simple universal formula for successful innovation: it is nonlinear and works at many levels. It is important for every company to imbibe the culture of innovation as a fundamental part of growth. Innovation is uniquely human and cannot be done by machines.

Innovations are not random; they occur in relation to the past, present, and future conditions of an organization. Companies that understand this basic truth stand to gain in the long term.

In conclusion, Innovation should be at the heart of every initiative by a company and should be hierarchy agnostic. In other words, it needs to be adopted as a ‘way of life’ among all stakeholders in a company, in order to ensure the company’s success and growth in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

(The writer is a Managing Director, Attachmate India Development Centre)

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