Last week, I posted a small poll to understand how companies are exploring their sources of innovation. The idea of the poll came out of a conversation about that many companies resort to two different types: either they have special teams that are developing new products, services and processes which are then taken up by the core business. Or, the companies are engaging their core business teams to explore new ideas themselves. According to the poll, over 60% of the people experience the latter.
At Hive17 Consulting we are promoting a third alternative that is taking the advantages of both options and allowing the companies to transform with more speed, less resistance and more creativity. Let's explore...
Companies that have established innovation labs complain that the core business is not taking up the new ideas with enough energy. The dedicated teams are great at identifying customer needs and have the resources to deep-dive into the respective markets. Often they are cross-functional and bring diverse experiences to the table, which is strengthening creativity and the creation of novel ideas. At the same time, they are disconnected from the core business and once they have claimed a victory, the company expects that the core business to stem the hard work for the big success. This creates friction.
As an alternative, companies then drive innovation from within their core business. Different initiatives are directed at identifying improvement ideas and developing new products. The core business is close to daily operations and has a good understanding of where we have friction and they are able to quickly implement improvements. Though, they lack the resources of creating a deep understanding of the larger context of the opportunity and often work in their respective silos.
How can we innovate and take the best from both options and drive creativity and operational excellence at the same time?
At Hive17 Consulting we are implementing an alternative we call 'Innovation Crews'. We support establishing small, interdisciplinary teams that are dedicated to a specific opportunity - growing a market, developing a new solution, improving manufacturing excellence, etc. These crews have the resources to deeply understand the ecosystem and bring different silos together. This allows the company to come up with crazy ideas in a short period of time. Because the team size is small, the team is forced to work together with the core business throughout the discovery, identification and development of the solution. This means, from the start the business is involved and contributes to the innovation projects. The innovation crew takes up a role of a facilitator to enable a smooth and accelerated journey towards groundbreaking innovation.
How did you experience the different options to drive innovation in your company?
For many leaders it is obvious to focus on long-term benefits; for our shareholders, customers, for our employees and many other stakeholders. We will be able to survive, grow and we are focusing on sustainability and lasting success.
Still, this McKinsey study shows that the majority of executives feel under pressure to redirect resources from strategic initiatives in order to meet short-term financial goals. This is impacting the sustainability of the business. The company will reduce its readiness for the future and the motivation of the people are jeopardised. The article formulates five behaviours that brings back the leadership focus to long-term objectives.
1) Invest in risky, large-scale initiatives which help the company to navigate into a position of growth. These initiatives can be about digitalisation, product innovation, talent development, exploring new markets.
2) Design a portfolio of strategic initiatives that in its sum are delivering positive value. These initiatives focus on how to maximise the value creation with existing assets; this can be in the areas of operational excellence.
3) Continuously allocate resources and people to strategic revenue generators. This also means to regularly exit old businesses; this allows you to focus on growing forward.
4) Take a broad range of stakeholders into consideration (beyond shareholders). Generate meaningful value for customers, employees, business partners, the society and the environment. This will also secure stakeholder value.
5) Ensure that short-term gains are not jeopardising your long-term success. Navigate through a crisis that will make the company stronger.
How are you navigating around the temptation to focus on short-term financial goals?
Neuroscience tells us that we are more creative and productive when we are working in a positive emotional state. As a leaders, this means we are responsible to create an environment which excites people to work in - establish a feeling of enjoyment and pride. Psychological Safety plays a big part in creating this environment. This is not a hygiene topic; rather it will allow people to deliver more value.
Two interesting articles are referenced in an article from 'CNBC Make It': Google determines psychological safety as the most important quality for success; Gallup reports that increased psychological safety leads to 12% increase in productivity. This is a worthwhile endeavour. And what does it take?
Which routines do you establish as a leader to create an appreciative working environment?
Source: ‘Psychological safety’ at work improves productivity–here are 4 ways to get it, according to a Harvard expert
This week I was engaged in a few discussions about how some teams feel that they are constantly under pressure. They feel they don't have breathing space and realise that this is not a situation that is tolerable and sustainable. Often, such circumstances result in burn-outs, attrition of talent and reduced performance. How can we then thrive when we are put under pressure?
Let me first divert into neuroscience. Studies have shown that when we are in a negative emotional state, our creativity and our capability to solve problems is shut down. In order to be effective as a knowledge worker, we want to be in a positive emotional state. Here are three ideas how to achieve this.
While you are experimenting with this lighter approach to absorb the pressure from outside, keep a good focus on your social connections - within your team, with the teams around you and with the stakeholders you are creating value for. Make your journey fun.
What is your approach to growing under pressure?
Photo credit: Ainhoa Sanchez, Volvo Ocean Race
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Tim is a change practitioner in the area of innovation and excellence. He is working with teams to accelerate innovation, collaboration and agility.