Innovation and collaboration are hot topics for businesses today. Innovation used to be in the hands of the experts and designers, but now requires all workforce members to be involved in collaboration.
Collaboration requires an engaged workforce, but only 13 per cent of the world’s workforce is engaged right now. A critical task for business and HR leaders now is to engage their people, but current ways of doing this are clearly inefficient. The old approach – engaging people from outside-in through the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of work and company brand – no longer inspires people, especially the younger generations coming into the workforce.
The new digital and social technologies are allowing individuals to engage in collaboration and innovation outside of work based on who they are as individuals. These new technologies put the individual back into the centre of things. Engaging a workforce to collaborate and innovate requires a new lens and tool kit, starting with ‘who’ and ‘why’.
There are HR professionals reading this who know that many change and transformation projects fail because they don’t take people with them; they don’t engage people. In the past ten years, research by Gallup and others shows that the most engaged people at work are engaged on the basis of who they are, so their work plays to their natural talents or strengths.
Collaboration is the new innovation, and catalysing a culture of collaboration is the new work for HR professionals. In the future of HR, innovation is the lag measure, whereas collaboration will be the lead measure.
The root of the prefix ‘co’ in collaboration means together, but it also means equal. The future of talent is a collaboration between people as equal players: not a hierarchy, a function, a job title or an enterprise, but something more; a living ecosystem of equal players engaging the strengths of every member.
I have come to dread this word ‘disruption’ when it is touted as the call to arms for innovation. As soon as we use this word, we disengage one-third to one-half of our workforce who are wired for continuity, not disruption. We need to take every scrap of talent with us into the innovation room as the process of positive disruption, meaning we see innovation as the process of building collaboration by bringing everyone’s strengths into play.
In my work to coach and release collaboration in enterprises now, we take the time to build a collaborative experience engaging everyone’s strengths from who they are – an ‘inside-out’ approach.
Some people are naturally wired around innovation and will embrace change readily, while others want to stay with what they know. Others are wired around collaboration, while others want their own projects. Some are naturally trusting and open, while others are guarded and suspicious. All these natural characteristics are hard wired and have both strengths and weaknesses.
I deploy appreciative inquiry (or AI) as a core process for large group innovation – many of you will be familiar with this approach and are using it to great success. I am finding now that taking time to engage everyone’s natural strengths builds diversity of thought and inclusion into any of your innovation initiatives.