The term innovation has become one of the buzziest terms in the last century. We can hear the word 'innovation' in every product announcement and find it listed on just about any organization's website. If we are outside stakeholders, this can be one more reason to admire that organization. However, employees can have a very different perception, a negative one. This is especially true when innovation is being applied to their work practices.
In one of my earlier work experiences, I recall my first-hand experience of the despise employees (my colleagues) had for innovation. To us, the popular management term meant confusion and extra work for no apparent reason. The term was overused to a level where no day will pass without sarcastic comments about anything called ‘innovation’.
In an article published by Harvard Business Review, the author presents survey data on knowledge workers' drive to innovation varying between 14 to 28% in the US and Canada. Two economies are ranked 3rd and 16th respectively in the 2021 global innovation index. This is in contrast to a 2010 McKinsey global survey result showing that 84% of executives say ‘innovation is extremely important to their companies’.
The term 'innovation' is not bad in itself. In fact, it is easy to agree on how vital and central innovation is to both survive and thrive. However, applying and implementing innovations has been mishandled, giving it a negative connotation internally in many organizations. A big reason for that is that innovations are developed without the active participation of employees. Thus, it ends up being viewed as direct orders masked as innovations. This is especially the case when the new practice involves employees like new HR policies or new work practices.
84% of executives say ‘innovation is extremely important to their companies’.
What is often missing is the deep involvement of employees in the whole innovation process. At the heart of applying any innovation to an organization are employees who are directly affected by it. As obvious as this sounds, having that thought applied to generate innovations is not as obvious. For an innovation to be employee-accepted, we must look toward our employees as major stakeholders and their input and drive to generate and shape innovations starting from the early stages. Only then can we hope for innovations that are liked and not forced.
We would love to have a chat about supporting the innovation system within your organization. Feel free to get in touch to schedule a call to chat with us.
What is often missing is the deep involvement of employees in the whole innovation process that will impact their work practices.
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By Tayseer Almattar
Tayseer is a passionate designer and educator. He believes that innovation potential can be grown and nurtured within organizations with relevant design innovation processes.