Are hopeful employees more innovative? A new study by Armenio Rego and his colleagues shows how employees' sense of hope explains their creative output at work. They asked one hundred and twenty five employees to rate their personal sense of hope and happiness while their supervisors rated the employees' creativity. Based on the correlations, they conclude that hope predicts creativity.
Hope is defined as a positive motivational belief in one's future; the feeling that what is wanted can be had; that events will turn out for the best. Hoping is an integral part of being human. Without hope, tasks such as innovating become difficult if not impossible. Why bother if there is no hope for a successful future? "Hope is important for innovation at work because creativity requires challenging the status quo and a willingness to try and possibly fail. It requires some level of internal, sustaining force that pushes individuals to persevere in the face of challenges inherent to creative work."
Once you develop the capability to generate ideas, you need a rigorous approach to managing innovation within the context of your company's culture. For that, Professor Jeff DeGraff's Competing Values Framework (CVF) is the best-in-class approach. CVF describes four organizational cultural styles of managing innovation: Collaborate, Create, Control, and Compete. Management teams tend to gravitate towards one, dominant style, the one that has served them well in the past. To be a more effective, leaders need to be "ambidextrous." Leaders should become adroit at two conflicting values. "They must develop the ability to oversee teams that work towards opposite goals, integrating them when the timing is right, so that each value can be developed successfully."
Language and innovation are inseparable. Language puts meaning to our ideas, be it spoken, written, or symbolic. We convey ideas to others which is essential in corporate innovation. Innovation would be nearly impossible if we did not have language. If you want to improve your innovation effectiveness, improve your use of language. Structured innovation methods help regulate our thinking and channel the ideation process. At the moment immediately before we innovate, we hold in our minds a pre-inventive form or structure that has yet to be understood. It is at that exact moment we begin to conjure up words and associations to attach to the pre-inventive form. It is this process of linking objective facts and judgments to the pre-inventive form that transforms it to an inventive form - an idea. Here is a step-by-step approach how language is used in innovation:
Sustainable innovation requires structured methods. But it also requires collaboration and information sharing among colleagues. Innovation is a team sport - groups produce better results than the lone genius. So how do you create a more favorable context for collaboration and sharing in your business unit?
Reputation is what matters. The degree to which a technical worker will share information with a colleague depends on that colleague's reputation for returning the favor. The rule of reciprocity states that people give back to those in the form they have received from others. It is a social rule taught by every human society to its members - you give back to those who have given to you. But the key is: to make the first move. You have to be seen as someone who gives and shares information with others, and has a reputation for returning the favor when others give to you.
nnovating is a form of competitive behavior. When we innovate, we compete with someone or something. We innovate to survive. We innovate for glory. We innovate to win. Leaders of organizations need to understand and leverage this competitive aspect of innovation to embed it into the organization.
Innovating to compete occurs at many levels:
An idea stands a better chance of surviving if it is not attributed to the individual who conceived it. Otherwise, the idea carries with it all the baggage and perception of its owner, good or bad. During idea evaluation, people struggle separating their feelings about the ideator from the idea itself. If they like the person, they like their idea...and vice versa.
Non-profit organizations need innovation every bit as much as for-profit firms. Some might argue they need it more because they lack the resources and cash flow of large commercial firms. Non-profits need innovation in:
* Fund Raising
* Expanding their reach
* Mission delivery
* Resource utilization
The need for innovation in the non-profit sector is widely recognized. Awards, grants, and other forms of recognition for innovative programs help stimulate managers to be more aggressive.
While the need is recognized, the approach to innovating non-profits is not. To innovate in the non-profit sector, these organizations should use the same methods found so effective in corporate innovation. Structured methods based on patterns inherent in inventive solutions can be applied to the non-profit business model just as effectively as the for-profit model. A method like S.I.T. can help an organization "break fixedness" about their role, resources, and process, thus opening new possibilities and approaches.
Companies should avoid the temptation to brand their innovation program. While it seems like a great way to bring excitement and focus to innovation, branding these programs does just the opposite. Employees become cynical, they wait it out, and they go right back to doing what they were doing before.
I liken this advice to that from Edwards Deming on quality. His 14 Key Principles are legendary in the quality movement worldwide. Principle Number 10 says:
"Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force."
To build innovation muscle, companies must include innovation in their competency models. A competency is a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. Competency models formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They prescribe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it's worth it.
Here is a nice example of an innovation competency modeled developed at Central Michigan University through a collaboration of authors. It could be customized to address the specific needs of a company or industry.