I’m not at HR Tech this year, but am following the proceedings on Twitter (#hrtechconf). As always, there’s lots of chatter about what’s the next big thing in human capital management technology. Cloud, Big Data, Mobile, and Social capabilities abound among the industry darlings. Everybody loves a winner and it’s fun to work for those winners. Your friends will think you’re both smart and lucky. Until your employer’s once bright star begins to fade, that is.
In the early 80′s through the late 90′s, there was no better tech company to work for. Lotus was the Google of its day. How come? Because taking spreadsheets off of paper and into computers solved a huge productivity challenge around the world. And then came Lotus Notes, the first collaboration platform of its kind. It was a huge step forward in business computing, and also an idea before its time. Notes was revolutionary, but people didn’t understand how online collaboration could fuel further advances in productivity. Notes still exists as an IBM product, but lost it’s preeminent position in collaborative computing right around the time we were all getting over the Y2K scare. How come? There was a bit too much innovation for the sake of innovation. The software became increasingly bloated and difficult to configure. Customers turned to lighter weight solutions that weren’t so costly to implement and maintain.
So what’s the lesson for the darlings of the tech world in 2013? Keep that innovation coming, but make sure you can explain what the innovation does for your customer. If they don’t buy the explanation, they’re not going to be buying the solution either.
Watch the short 1983 Lotus promotional video below. It will remind you that innovation is timeless, even if shoulder pads aren’t.
Today’s guest post is courtesy of Sharlyn Lauby, better known as the HR Bartender.
Earlier this summer, Kronos recognized several companies in its annual Innovator Awards. The Kronos Innovator Awards were created to acknowledge partners that have created innovative solutions to effectively manage their workforce. You can read more about this year’s winners here.
It got me thinking. What does it take to create an innovative culture? A culture that would be recognized for its unique solutions. Then I read a book that helped me discover the answer. In the book “Innovation Training” by Ruth Ann Hattori and Joyce Wycoff (ASTD Press), the authors discuss what it takes to create an innovative culture. They identify four key components.
Organizational Values – We all know what values are, right? They’re the competencies the organization identifies as being essential to fulfilling the mission of the business. Innovative companies have values that are really values. Not just words on a card for show purposes. These companies create values so they can hire employees who can embrace those ideals. They train to those values and evaluate performance based on those values.
Employee Accountability – Hattori and Wycoff call this “people – the source of innovation” but I think it’s more than just the existence of employees. It’s about holding people accountable for living the organization’s values. Being held accountable for organizational values is key to creating an innovative culture.
Leadership Support – Nothing of significance will materialize if company leadership doesn’t support it. You can’t pressure or micro-manage people to innovate. Leaders must be supportive both of the individual and the values they’ve established. Then let people do their best work.
Learning Mindset – The book defines this as “innovation values”. Okay, I get their point; but I do sometimes find it challenging to use the word innovation in a definition about innovative culture. Basically, this component is about letting people learn. Because innovation happens when learning happens. Inside formal training. Outside during informal conversations. Innovation occurs when someone asks if they can continue to work on something because “they can’t let it go yet”. It takes place over drinks after work. Learning and innovation happen anywhere and everywhere when we let it.
When I thought about this year’s Kronos award winners, I thought about the innovative cultures they must have created to achieve great results. Make no mistake, these are companies focused on the bottom-line. But delivering excellent products and services, being profitable and maintaining an innovative culture are not mutually exclusive.
What do you think are the components of an innovative culture? Leave us your thoughts in the comments.
I recently interviewed former SHRM CEO and Workforce Institute board member Sue Meisinger about the chapter she wrote for our book, Elements of Successful Organizations. In her chapter, Sue discusses the role that HR leaders can and should play in creating a culture that encourages and facilitates innovation in their organizations.
She cites a 2010 IBM CEO survey in which CEO’s identified creativity as the most critical factor required for the future success of their organizations. Leveraging her decades of experience leading and counseling large organizations, Sue shares a number of practical strategies for creating opportunities for creativity and innovation to flourish.
One very important point Sue makes is that meaningful innovation isn’t limited to the Apples and Googles of the world. She encourages managers and employees to look for transformation in process improvements and the elimination of interdepartmental barriers. I encourage you to read the book to learn more, but you can hear the highlights of her advice by listening to the podcast of our conversation:
This is a practical and thought-provoking compilation of experiences focused on what drives and sustains successful organizations. Its contributing authors, all well-respected individuals from academia and industry, go beyond theory showing the reader wisdom — and a roadmap for growing and sustaining any organization.
-- John Boudreau, PhD, Professor and Research Director, USC's Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations