Innovation is too often seen as a standalone great idea by one individual, and this approach results in long lists of concepts seeking support – but very little which are worthy of progressing, according to Deloitte.
Innovation, as opposed to invention, generally comes from incremental insights combined with bringing together adjacencies, said Rob Hillard, chief strategy & innovation officer for Deloitte Australia.
“The best innovation programmes focus on collaboration, and challenge an existing understanding of the problem that needs to be solved, rather than coming up with new answers to old questions,” he explained.
Misalignment between the ambition of “innovation activists” in an organisation and the corporate strategy is also a common challenge for organisations.
Hillard observed that teams are often innovating in the wrong place, or at the very least in a place that – if successful – won’t matter to the organisation.
“Providing a clear link between the strategic goals of the organisation, and the areas to innovate on, employees are much more likely to create offerings that are valuable to the organisation and therefore access greater capital, support and less resistance,” he said.
Making innovation business as usual
HR also has a role to play in making sure that the best innovators and collaborators within an organisation are identified and recognised, according to Jason Bender, head of innovation for Deloitte Australia.
“HR can provide open dialogue, share stories, and dispel the myth that innovation is just a creative process,” he said.
“Creativity is only one component. It requires insight, courage, discipline AND creativity to foster an innovative culture.”
Innovation should be deliberate and accessible to everyone, recognising that people bring different capabilities to the table, Bender said.
“The best innovation programmes focus on collaboration, and challenge an existing understanding of the problem that needs to be solved, rather than coming up with new answers to old questions”
Innovation challenges should be combined with on-the-job training in new skills which will encourage and spark innovative insights, which should be recognised and celebrated.
“Innovation is more than a separate programme – It is the development of the future of business and the future of the work that everyone in that business does,” said Bender, who observed that innovation can sometimes get lost in the day-to-day running of a business.
“Innovation is also about discipline; it is a robust and repeatable process with good success rates when approached this way,” he said.
The role of HR in innovation
There are a number of steps HR can do to help create a culture of experimenting, failing, learning and experimenting again, with a view to commercialising innovation, according to Hillard:
1. HR should focus on the collaborative culture of the organisations. How is collaboration and sharing of insights recognised, celebrated and rewarded?
2. HR can help align organisational and individual learning agendas. When an organisation’s learning and individual’s learning collide, innovation is more likely to happen.
3. HR is uniquely placed to make sure that job rotation encourages innovation by bringing adjacent skills to bear on new problems.
4. Inspire people with stories and narratives that they can see themselves in.
5. Recognise and reward the right behaviours from the innovators, the leaders, the enabling functions and the client teams.
6. Develop capability across all aspects of the innovation lifecycle from research and insight, through to generation, development and commercialisation. Recognise that this is a combination of training, bringing in new talent and collaborating outside the organisation. Find a balance between the passionate adventurers and the experienced entrepreneurs.