Can science teach us to be more innovative at work? Absolutely, says Amantha Imber; Founder of award-winning management consultancy, Inventium. And HR needs to listen up.
After a doctorate at Monash University led to five years in the advertising industry, organisational psychologist and author Amantha Imber decided it was time for a change. It was time, as she explained, “to use my org psych powers for good… instead of to sell people more chocolate bars!”
Organisational Psychology (OP) involves the application of psychological theories and principles to organisations and individuals in the workplace. However, there’s still a chasm between what’s happening in the academic world and how organisations are operating.
“I’d left uni, but I kept reading academic journals. And it was bewildering to me that people outside of academia – no one was actually accessing this research or using it,” Imber says. “I thought this was crazy because so there’s so much great stuff there.“
She founded her consultancy, Inventium, with a vision of taking a science-based approach to innovation, where world-class scientific research was made accessible to companies and people to use in the ‘real world’. Inventium now works with clients to implement innovative practices, solve business challenges and educate workforces using science-based tools.
It’s core operating philosophy? That Organisational Psychology (OP) is key to business success, growth and sustained innovation.
(What are other people saying about psychology in the workplace? Read this think piece)
Why organisational psychology is becoming more important for business success
Imber says that organisations are getting savvy to the fact that traditional notions of how a company is managed just don’t square with what science and psychology are telling us about how people think and work.
“There’s a gap between what science knows and what business does and OP is bridging that divide.”
Where does HR fit in in using organisational psychology at work?
HR should be taking lessons from OP and seeking out experts, Imber says – particularly in order to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) and as a means to jump-start innovation, from idea generation to improving recruitment and engagement processes.
To do this, you need to not only have data, but collect the right data and know how to analyse it in order to best explain what needs to be done differently.
Recruitment is a great example as “even the best organisations still have a poor success rate in terms of finding new hires that turn out to be star performers,” she says.
Another is employee engagement surveys. “No one likes doing them, in most cases the data’s not particularly valid; people are just rushing through them. And I wonder if most people are even asking the right questions.”
“A large part of what Inventium does is we come in to build that innovation muscle and teach people how to be innovators.” Putting science and evidence behind behind your decision-making has a significant impact on people’s behaviour. It also gives HR the tools to make a convincing business case for change.
So, what sets innovative companies apart?
Imber says there are a few key traits that are found at companies which consistently top her Australian Financial Review Most Innovative Companies’ list. Notable mentions include Planet Innovation, Commbank and Australia’s most successful tech export, Atlassian.
- They focus on innovation as a skill set and believe that innovation can be taught. “There’s often a very big focus on building deliberate capabilities for innovation, rather than just assuming that we’re either born an innovator or we’re not,” says Imber.
- Innovation is built into the fabric of company culture. “One sign of an innovative culture is an appetite for risk-taking. Failure is not seen as a dirty word. Working on those things is an important focus that senior leaders need to have.” Want to learn more about how to build an innovative team? Read our guide.
- There’s a clear process for innovation to actually happen. If employees have an idea, there’s a process in place that tells them where to take that idea next.
Gain insights on innovation psychology and human capital management at the AHRI State Conferences this month.
Register now for the AHRI State Conferences 2017.
AHRI State Conferences: Dr Amantha Imber, founder of award-winning management consultancy Inventium, will share the latest scientific findings about the real drivers behind inventive and disruptive thinking. Ms Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, Senior Vice President of PageUp, leads the PageUp Talent Lab, and will talk about her latest book Cliffhanger: HR on the precipice in the future of work.