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Why HR and Innovation are the Hottest New Power Couple

Source | LinkedIn : By Fiona Jury

The best and most disruptive innovation outcomes occur when the right combination of the culture, talent, leadership, vision and engagement is in place. A good example of the convergence between HR and innovation is Lend Lease, the highly successful global construction company, which has married these two portfolios by appointing Michael Vavakis as Global Head of HR and Global Head of Innovation.

Why Is Innovation Not Working in Most Companies?

According to FusionLabs CEO Patrick Crooks, many companies are being smarter about managing their innovation portfolio by demanding more accountability for innovation efforts but large companies in particular continue to struggle with scaling innovations up and making them more systemic. After an initial burst of excitement, executives often can’t see the long term benefits. Often an organisation’s rigid culture and institutionalised thinking attack new ideas and kill them during embryonic stages. Well-intentioned innovation initiatives can have brilliant short term success but limited longevity, for instance:

  • Crowdsourcing ideas: you receive too many ideas, the funnel gets clogged and all cannot be responded to which leads to disengagement
  • Hackathons: a good way to inspire creative thinking in a short space of time but they don’t embed innovation systemically in the organisation
  • Skunk works: the knowledge of how to pull off breakthrough innovation tends to get stuck inside the group and never gets integrated into the broader company. Also, if people are cycled through the skunk works then the magic chemistry that worked once isn’t guaranteed to work again
  • Lab Environment: innovation can thrive in a separate space, free of corporate constraints, but the new ideas are rejected or die a slow death upon re-entry back into the corporate environment.

These are some common barriers when trying to achieve innovation outcomes:

  • Fear of failure
  • Short term metrics
  • How people are incentivised
  • Fixed mindsets in assuming customer needs
  • Integrating innovation as a culture, mindset and process systemically across the whole company
  • Senior executives don’t want to take on the risk
  • No one wants to take on the budget

How Can HR Solve For This?

HR done well can unleash the human innovation potential of an organisation. It can be the difference between success and failure, the difference between existing in five years time and not.

HR, together with the executive leadership team, has a crucial part to play in overcoming these barriers to innovation. The right culture, organisational and team design, processes, talent, performance systems, leadership capability and workforce planning are all crucial factors in an organisation’s innovative effectiveness. Think of how important people and culture are to the world’s most innovative companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft/LinkedIn, Unilever, Tesla, Atlassian and Coca-Cola.

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