PMCONNECT-CREATING AN INNOVATION-CENTRIC CULTURE FOR CONTINUOUS ORGANISATIONAL IMPROVEMENT

SBACC’s Newsletter Issue 2015 August – September | www.sbacc.org.sg

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In recent years, companies have been strongly encouraged to innovate in order to remain competitive. However, while studies and research papers have highlighted how important innovation is to organisations around the world, it has not picked up sufficient momentum at mid-management levels and in the trenches. One reason for this could be that unlike many other business functions or processes that have well-defined and documented methodologies, innovation has very little or no accepted protocol in many organisations. As such, most companies make up their processes as they work on new innovations, and rarely use the same process twice.

However, if not thought through and planned systematically, innovation can be adhoc, haphazard and subject to deeper failures or higher successes than other processes. As innovation carries with it such high risks, establishing some defining processes and metrics will help manage the swings in the outcomes. So what might be some of these metrics?

Aggregate Learning

In times of uncertainty, it is only natural that employees will look for definitive guidance:

i) What are the established paths?

ii) What experts should they turn to?

iii) Who has been down this road before and where are their maps?

Thus, aggregate learning should be documented and converted into methodologies for innovation in conjunction with business processes that support such innovation.

Attitudes

The ‘dare to do’ spirit together with the right competencies will lead to the creation of many innovative ideas and processes. The organisation will have to:

i) develop the appropriate competencies;

ii) manage and change the mind-set of staff;

iii) attract staff with the right skills and competencies;

iv) create a corporate culture that supports change and innovation;

v) remove ‘red tape’ or bureaucracy within and across departments

The employees will have to collectively get together to pool ideas and define an innovation methodology and business process that could be systemically shared across all departments and sectors.

Management and employees must work together to:

A             Create an Innovation and Enterprise (I&E)

Climate in which

• staff, managers and stakeholders are given the motivation and opportunity to engage actively in innovation;

• risk taking is objectively and carefully calculated as a normal part of innovation and where failure may be a necessary element in making progress.

• skills and ideas can be rapidly transferred within and between departments of the organisation and beyond.

B             Promote an innovative work environment leveraging staff ’s core talents, abilities and infrastructure, creating opportunities to bring about a change in mind-sets.

C             Build the capacity for innovation in each staff, ensuring that individuals are equipped with the appropriate tools and skills.

D             Support the cultivation and experimentation of new and creative ideas across core revenue and non-core revenue levels through systemic processes that recognize, promote and provide opportunity for idea generation.

The ability to innovate is a function of capability and motivation. This innovation philosophy is centered on the will of an organisation to create the changes necessary to be innovative, and possibly even sacrifice short term gains for long-term successes.

Improvement vs Innovation

Integral to the success of any organisation is the drive for constant and continuing improvement in everything it does. This means identifying and leveraging tried and tested practices and improving on them. However, there is the ever present need to be aware of the fact that in this ever evolving global landscape, new approaches, processes or technologies are emerging to subsequently replace existing ones. Organisations must therefore think ‘out-of-the-box’ to find new approaches that will bring about exponential positive change. Success in any organisation integrates the power of continuous improvement with the power of innovation.

The underlying principles to an Innovation

Philosophy are as follows:

•At management level, we play an essential role in shaping an employee’s mind-set to be innovative, to succeed at work and life in general.

•Management needs to be role models in nurturing innovation and enterprise.

•In a knowledge based economy, we need to be creative and be willing to explore new approaches to boost productivity.

•As education systems and processes grow in complexity, the impact any single strategy can have will be limited. New approaches and ideas are constantly needed.

•Innovation is essential to meet the changing and challenging circumstances of a globally competitive economy.

•Everyone has the inherent ability to innovate and be creative.

•To nurture an environment that fosters I & E, organisations and individuals must be open to ideas and be willing to tolerate uncertainty and failure across all hierarchical levels.

•We need to build on our passion for our work for I & E to flourish. Management and Staff Empowerment is the key to encouraging staff engagement in innovation. It is not about providing resources and leaving them to do what they want. It is about giving them guidance and support to do what they are capable of and also being receptive to their ideas and suggestions. Such a culture will help harness and develop existing talent in the staff, including areas that they may not have been tasked to get involved in previously.

To cultivate a climate of Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise, I have identified three pillars that will support a sustained spirit of Innovation in an organisation:

1              A shared vision and strategy:

Open and constant communication to staff that innovation is a key activity that needs to be integrated into the organisation’s productivity framework and the need for the organisation to focus on becoming an “innovation-centric” organization.

2              Creating a secure environment that promotes ideas:

Organisation leaders need to create a secure environment where staff are encouraged to express their views, challenge one another, and are willing to try alternative approaches and/or ideas.

3              External stakeholder partnership:

There is the need to capitalise on ideas from within the organisation as well as tap on external influences. Strengthening partnerships with external stakeholders (i.e., strategic partners, consultants, suppliers, and even competitors) provide new sources of innovation that leverages our competitive advantage.

The above can be summed up in seven ‘Innovation Success Factors’:

• CULTURE

Staff who embraces innovation passionately in all aspects of his or her work and personal life.

• ALIGNMENT

The intent and purpose of innovation initiatives are aligned with that of the organisation and its various departments’ strategic goals and processes.

• TEAMWORK

A climate of mutual commitment and participation that fosters positive interpersonal relationships in a conducive collaborative work environment.

• IDEATION

Idea generation, Experimentation, and Out-of-the-Box exploratory thinking.

• RISK ACCEPTANCE

An understanding that occasional mistakes and failures are the basis for future successes.

• ALLIANCES

Creating strategic partnerships and alliances with external partners, organisations, community bodies and even industry competitors.

• CUSTOMER FOCUS

Focus on stakeholders comprising customers and markets

As we move alongside Singapore into the next 50 years, being “innovation-centric” has never been more critical. Be it at enterprise or individual level – it is imperative to generate and push our ideas with foresight.

See more at:
SBACC’s Newsletter Issue 2015 August – September

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