Engage or perish

Engage or perish

Innovation thinking: embrace and cultivate

Innovation thinking cannot be deployed, it must be cultivated, and in order to be cultivated, it needs to be embraced, not imposed. A properly executed and well communicated innovation thinking programme which starts out gradually and lets everyone become used to the idea can change the mindset of entire departments, changing the course of the company as a whole. We have often seen that the majority of workers do not feel engaged with their work, but what about a fifth of them feeling “actively disengaged?” A recent Gallup survey of 1500 people in Australia returned just that result. This means tens of billions in waste and lost profits now, but what will it mean in a few years if the number climbs? Large companies may fight low morale by throwing ever increasing resources at recruitment, or buying expertise from outside providers. Small and medium companies, however, do not have quite the same momentum or cash reserves. Their journey between plummeting employee morale and going to the wall will likely be a short one. Substantial change is required.

From none other than Geoffrey Moore, the author of “Crossing the Chasm”, comes this call to action, quoted in the BBVA publication “Reinventing the Company in the Digital Age”: “Abandon the notion of a hierarchical model where the middle manager takes instruction from above to deploy below and takes data from below to inform above. Instead, position the middle manager as master of the interfaces with the customer and the partners, empowering them to detect, analyse and address mismatches through negotiation, adjustment and reform.” We can see this going on already, in companies whose leadership see the value in empowering people to take ownership of projects, customer segments or products. It makes them more effective and it makes their job far more interesting, which does wonders for engagement. Ultimately it leads to what Professor Haim Mendelson of Stanford Business School calls “high organisational IQ” – a quality which is fundamental if your company is to be a nimble, learning organisation which confidently faces the demands of a dynamically changing marketplace and the broader environment.

Innovation thinking: recruit and retain

Companies with “high organisational IQ” find it easier to recruit the right people. Considering the level of competition for good employees, we can draw a sharply descending, long-tailed curve to illustrate “employee interest”, within any group of companies. The well known, high-profile, innovative organisations would be placed high and to the left, at the stratospheric end of the curve. They generate high employee interest and probably do not suffer from a shortage of motivated candidates. Along the other end, the flat long tail is filled with companies that are probably not any more boring than any of the others around them but are certainly not any more interesting, either. We would be right in assuming that they do not have a throng of the best and brightest beating a path to their door. Companies that may not be the sexy beasts but are nonetheless great, forward thinking places to work occupy the middle ground, the slippery bend of the curve, and that is where it gets interesting. The company as a thought leader, would that be a comfortable hat to wear? “This is a cool company, they do exciting things there.” Isn’t that an excellent thought to plant in the minds of people?

Author, speaker and consultant on strategic creativity, innovation & communication, good at seeing the big picture and spotting connections between people and concepts.

Catalyst & Sensemaker at Poland’s highest ranked private university, the University of Social Sciences and Humanities; startup founder, knee-deep in Europe’s startup and mobile community. (Founder Institute and PwC StartupCollider mentor.) Curator for TEDxWarsaw and contributor to technology and media events as speaker, programme director and/or moderator.