Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation
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Your people, your differentiators

16th Aug 2016
Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation
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How do you see your people? Are they paper shufflers and process followers; part of that vast army of ‘heavy-on-the-costs’ entities which are tolerated at least until the machines can take over? Or are they the centrepiece of your organisation, the guardians of the culture and the drivers of differentiated innovation?

Unnecessary question? Well, even if you gave the second answer I wonder how close your perception is to reality. You see it is easy to say that you value your people, less easy to create the conditions in which they can thrive and deliver game changing results for your organisation.

Let me give you an example. An EY study of FTSE 350 companies earlier this year reported that 86% of respondents believed that culture was either very important or fundamental to performance and strategy delivery. Yet the same study also revealed that 58% had not initiated a culture change programme in the previous five years. And if you aren’t looking at your culture it’s a fair bet that your people are also feeling more than a little neglected.

In a similar vein in a Wazoku twitter poll, 73% of respondents agreed that it was organisational culture which made innovation happen, whilst an earlier survey also from Wazoku revealed that 72% of employees had no understanding of what innovation meant to their employer.  In effect, these and other similar surveys serve to highlight the gap which exists between knowing the importance of culture and engagement and acting to create the optimum conditions which will enable your people to thrive.

Quite simply, you can’t have a great culture without an engaged workforce and you certainly can’t have a culture of innovation without paying attention to your people. With that in mind let’s look at a few of the areas which you may need to work on in order to equip your people with the skills and mindset which will help them to deliver innovation.

Out go silos

First up; out go silos, in comes collaboration. But you won’t get collaboration simply by telling your people to collaborate. Communication and listening skills will have to be developed alongside an understanding of team dynamics. In the initial phase, you also need to help your people to build a more holistic view of the organisation, helping them to understand not only how their individual tasks contribute to the whole, but also to gain an appreciation of the way in which other departments fit into the organisational innovation mix.

Then there is the fear factor to overcome. Within an innovation-led culture, failure moves from being a cause for censure towards being a development and learning point. This transition isn’t easy in an organisation which may have traditionally prioritised ‘getting it right’ over all else. Not only will your people have to be retrained to understand that it is okay to experiment and to explore the ‘What if?’ questions, the entire reward structure may need to be redrawn in order to prioritise an innovation-led approach.

None of these changes will take effect unless the underlying culture is redrawn to embrace innovation attitudes, approaches and behaviour. And even then, conflicts can arise unless leaders at all levels of the organisation are fully on board with the changes. I’ll admit that changing mindset and attitude so profoundly may not be easy, but for those who are successful the rewards are there.

Your people are your organisation’s greatest resource. They are your differentiators, the single most important factor which enables your business to stand out against the opposition. Isn’t it time that you put ‘Building a Culture of Innovation’ at the top of the strategic agenda and set your people free to develop and deliver success?



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