• Micha Veen

How do you allow your employees to build their innovation ability?


In the 21st century business landscape, having a strong operational innovation skill is becoming imperative to continue to drive value for “your” business and customer. This year, instead of the focus on leadership, mobile, cloud, disruptive technology, data analytics, and other business resolutions, why not commit to building your innovation ability…

Building your innovation ability has always been important in small and medium business, but with the customer-reach that small and medium business can achieve, large organisations and government are currently also expecting their employees to be “innovative”. Unfortunately, employees working in the core business operations that posses an innovation ability, are still rare in many large and government organisations. Many employees have been trained, managed and developed with the technical, functional and management skills, but are often missing a solid combination of:-

  • Cognitive skills - e.g. the ability to think creatively and critically,

  • Behavioural skills - e.g. the ability to solve problems, to manage risk,

  • Cross-functional skills - e.g. the ability to have worked across multiple departments, functions and stakeholders, and

  • Technology skills - e.g. the understanding of different technologies, models, services and their impact on the “business”.

As many large multinationals focus to deliver innovative solutions, products and services to the external business environment to meet the rapidly evolving competitive business landscape, often they “forget” to introduce innovation within their businesses. Introducing Operational Innovation at the heart of your business has shown to be key in developing your employees with the innovative ability that leads to an end-to-end innovative organisation, meeting the required organisational goals and targets.

How do you create this innovative ability within your employees?

To create the innovative ability within an employee, it’s important that their career path has led them across multiple departments and functions. This should have also allowed them to experience various technologies, technology services, and other technical solutions. Many business and HR leaders have started to introduce these career paths beyond their graduate programs, e.g. moving a senior Financial Accountant into a Supply Chain leader, a HR expert into a technology program or leading a transformation program, and transitioning a Marketing executive into a digital/ technology environment. Many multinationals have also been very comfortable to transition finance managers into supply chain director roles, sales directors into operational roles, etc.

However, these cross-functional and technology skills are only one piece of the puzzle. These skills should be closely accompanied with the following cognitive and behavioural skills to create the complete innovation ability:

  • Collaboration, teamwork, mentoring, playing to lose and dealing with ambiguity,

  • Building networks and knowledge sharing

  • Questioning, problem solving, critical thinking and thinking outside the box or problem,

  • Listening and effective communication,

  • Thinking across disciplines, lateral thinking, making connections and improvising,

  • Leadership (at all levels), confidence, resilience and willingness to take risks,

  • A global and cross-industry mindset.

To create true Operational Innovation, it’s crucial to ensure that the various skills are introduced, but your employees should also require the right culture. Introducing a “test and try” culture through the use of a structured approach and relevant tools and guidance, will address an effective environment to foster and grow your employee’s innovative ability.

It has not only shown that strong innovative abilities will adopt operational innovation at the heart of your business, but it has also been shown that organisations that have Operational Innovation executed effectively, meet and ultimately exceed, their organisational goals and targets more consistently…

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