Here's to a New Year of Innovation!
Goodbye 2015. Hello to the New Year! Typically with the passing of a year, I spend the first few hours feeling nostalgic. Facebook has their "year in review," news outlets have their "best of 2014 lists," and we all take a look back at last year's resolutions.
For the first time in a long time, I am more interested in what is coming than reflecting on what has passed. This year, rather than thinking in terms of imperatives -- I am thinking in terms of what is new -- novel -- and kinetic. I am thinking in terms of implementation, and a changing workplace environment. It's exciting!
Today's workplace is largely made up of three generations. Born in the early 60's to 80's -- Generation X is sometimes referred to as the "lost" generation. They grew up in a time of political turmoil, and technological advancement. Generation Y represents those born in the late 80's and early 90's; Millennials. Coined by progressive business media brand Fast Company, Generation Flux is neither here nor there. Gen Flux as mentioned in my last post is a generation not defined by age, race, or location. For Generation Flux distance is not defined by meters or miles -- but by the distribution and dissemination of information. For GenFlux, progress is chaotic. And that's a good thing.
Today's younger business colleagues approach their professional life differently than those before. The latest breed of workers do not fear change and feel at home with quickly changing technology. Failure to understand the new forces at work in the 2015 workplace will impede your efforts in creating the top-down bottom-up alignment needed for successful and sustainable innovation. You will need to create a place of work that attracts talent from all three generations. Whereas in years past, the organization's culture would shape the individual employees, today it is the value system of the individuals that, collectively, define the organization's style and mores.
In this environment, how can you best create an eco-system that allows today's talent to flourish?
Consider these steps:
• Cross-Pollination: For optimal innovation, your organization must be a paradigm of communication, one that fosters intra-organizational idea exchange and collaboration.
• Potential vs. Expertise: Which is the most important innovation team attribute -- is it potential, or expertise? Trick question -- the answer is both! With a new wave of applicants in today's job market, you'll want to select some candidates with potential as well as some with direct industry expertise. You may find that those with less real-world experience, but significant upside potential, may prove to be valuable, out-of-the-box thinkers that can step to the plate as tomorrow's innovators and company leaders.
• Time to Think: In 2015 it is imperative to structure your environment in a way that permits thinking time. Time specifically set aside for working on innovation, aside from typical job duties. Some companies host off-campus innovation retreat, or a "hackathons." The idea is to not only permit, but to push your folks to move their innovation projects forward and give them the time they need to do it.
• Failure IS an Option: Innovation means risk and with risk, success is never guaranteed. Failure, therefore, must be tolerated. Without the freedom to fail, your team's collective courage to push the status quo will quickly evaporate and freeze your innovation efforts.
To get results in Innovation, a structured, repeatable process is essential from start to finish. Look to all the imperatives of Robert's Rules of Innovation -- but be sure you know how to implement them. Keep an eye out for the next installment on sustaining Innovation in 2015: RROI volume II, coming soon!