Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation
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Organisational development through innovation

10th Nov 2014
Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation
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Businesses want the most out of their people, the fat trimmed from every department, and HR and L&D are both crucial in enabling this philosophy.”

So reads the introduction on the Training Zone website to this month’s topic of Organisational Development, citing a mix of “external, unavoidable pressures (e.g. government policies), and internal, more manageable pressure (e.g. year-on-year budgeting)” as the catalyst for change.  Without taking anything away from these key drivers, there are also new kids on the block, which are going to have a far more profound impact on organisations and on the way in which they will have to change and innovate to survive.

Those new drivers are a combination of the technological revolution and the fast-approaching Generation Z. Let’s look at technological change first. We now live in a world in which every business, large and small, has access to the same levels of technology and can offer their services equally across web and digital platforms. And when everyone can make the same products and sell the same products then homogeneity becomes commonplace as it has, so the differentiators have to change. Not only that, the pace of change is such that businesses which are not agile enough to continually create products which take advantage of the new technology and also resonate with customers are going to be left behind. 

And this leads us on to the next new kid on the block, literally, the customer. Generation Y is now well established and Generation Z is snapping at their heels. This last generation has never known a time without fast connectivity; they see the world as their oyster and are firm about their place in it.  So much so that they are looking at experience over product and expect to be able to co-create products and services and that will require organisations to build a collaborative innovation’ or more open-innovation capability. 

Stepping up to this technology/Generation Z twin challenge requires organisations to develop themselves like never before. The department shuffles, the switches of reporting line or divisional responsibilities which have passed for organisational development for decades are now mere puffs of wind compared to the fresh wind of change which is sweeping through those who have seen the future. Innovation is now the name of the game, so say 69% of UK corporates which name innovation in their top three priorities, and that means change. It means infusing every part of the organisation with the idea of innovation, it means accepting failure as a learning point, it means ditching silos in favour of open collaboration and it means turning the organisation from one which puts short term profits first to one which headlines with customer experience. All of these require HR and L&D to lead the way but when 66% of major UK business leaders claim that their organisational structure makes it difficult to collaborate for innovation then there could be bumpy times ahead.

So why should you bother to change the organisation so fundamentally? Isn’t incremental change in response to budget re-setting or a change in regulations enough? Well that depends on where you want your organisation to be in five years time – market leader or following the likes of Woolworths or Blockbuster into the lexicon of ‘might have been’. 

Revisiting the quote at the top of this piece, HR and L&D are crucial to such a fundamental change that it is less organisational development and more organisational re-setting. From helping senior leaders to adopt new models and new methodologies to revisiting contracts and procedures the HR team sit at the developmental heart of the change to an innovation culture. L&D are equally important as training moves towards blended learning and employees move from being silo’d specialists to team players with a broader knowledge of the business. 

I’m addressing these points further in my upcoming white paper, which looks at the role of HR in innovation. Keep an eye out on my website or sign up on the site for updates so you don’t miss it. In the meantime if you’ve got a question on innovation feel free to email Cris at [email protected] or visit for more information on how Cris and his team help some of the worlds smartest companies succeed through innovation.


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