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Part 3: Accelerating the impact of Innovation Campaigns

Part 3: Accelerating the impact of Innovation Campaigns

Part 3 of 3: Talent Development as an enabling force for innovation campaigns

Innovation campaigns are great for near-term impact and results. They get ideas into the pipeline for evaluation and possible implementation. And there are tangible payoffs in terms of increased revenues, improved efficiency, and cost savings.

Yet it’s the intangibles that are the foundational source for those tangible results – and for the vast majority of a company’s market value. Yes, intangibles in the form of intellectual capital comprise an average of 80% of the market value of publicly traded companies, with tangible book value supplying the remaining 20%.

Intangible assets provide the organizational capacity to innovate and can take many forms, such as: resident knowledge and expertise among employees; level of employee engagement; customer loyalty; effective R&D and disruptive technologies; ability to recruit/develop/retain top talent; robust knowledge management and innovation management systems; and an overall culture for innovation.

Intangible assets have a direct impact on meeting the top strategic challenges that CEOs face globally. That is, they provide the short and long-term capability to:

  1. Accelerate and sustain business growth
  2. Attract and develop human capital
  3. Enable innovation throughout the entire organization
  4. Focus relentlessly on customers
  5. Achieve operational excellence
  6. Promote sustainability
  7. Implement disruptive technologies
  8. Develop stronger marketing and branding

What’s needed to accelerate the impact of innovation campaigns on sustainable business performance and success is a 2-fold strategy:

  1. Build the competencies and behaviors that employees need to be innovative, think innovatively and act innovatively in their everyday work
  2. Provide real-time learning interventions that bolster campaign engagement and innovative results

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For innovation sponsors, this represents a significant opportunity to partner with Talent Development professionals to implement this strategy and accelerate its increased impact on business performance and results.

Build competencies and behaviors for being innovative

Enabling employees to be innovative requires putting the power, responsibility, knowledge and tools for innovation at their fingertips. The knowledge and skills for being creative and innovative include: sharing a common language for innovation; being versatile with different styles of innovative thinking; following a cross-functional innovation process; consciously building innovative teamwork; and tapping into intrinsic meaning and motivation for innovation.

The mandate of the Talent Development function is to build and strengthen the competencies and behaviors that employees need to innovate in their everyday work, including the campaigns. This can be accomplished in accord with the top strategic priorities of HR departments globally (according to Deloitte’s report on 2016 Global Human Capital Trends), but with a deliberate focus on innovation:

  • Develop leaders for innovation
  • Engage employees to innovate in their daily work
  • Empower networked teams for customer-centric innovation

But the nitty-gritty, down-to-earth, practical question now arises:

How might innovation sponsors unite with TD to co-create initiatives that actualize this potential?

Here’s our recommendation...

Start with the top HR priority: Develop Leaders. Commit to a comprehensive focus on Leadership for Innovation. With this focus, leaders at all levels can learn and practice what it takes to implement the other two components: engage employees to work innovatively, and empower the network of innovative teams

Within this Leadership for Innovation focus, there are 2 key roles for all leaders (from entry supervisor to CEO) to play:

  1. Practitioners & Role Models for being innovative themselves
  2. Facilitators & Coaches for others to be innovative

By practicing these roles, leaders not only augment their own job performance and careers, but also earn the credibility they need to effectively guide and motivate their peers and subordinates.

To guide the effectiveness of these initiatives and the positive practices they will spawn, its critically important to have the right analytics by which to measure progress. According to the McLean report, “metrics and analytics was the least effective HR area regardless of organization size.” Deloitte adds that 77% of executives now rate people analytics as a key priority. From an innovation perspective, such analytics could quantify and track how well the organization is:

  1. Establishing a common language for innovation
  2. Aligning expectations and opportunities for being innovative
  3. Promoting stretch goals and risk-taking
  4. Fostering a healthy innovation process
  5. Practicing versatile, innovative thinking
  6. Engaging people across boundaries to co-create innovative solutions
  7. Empowering different types of innovation

Provide real-time learning interventions that bolster campaign engagement and innovative results

Innovation campaigns can be optimized when they occur in conjunction with the larger initiatives for accelerating the organization’s capacity to innovate. Making Talent Development an essential component of innovation campaigns generates broader levels of engagement along with higher quality of ideas and participation in the campaigns…  while actively building the intellectual capital assets of the company.

There are numerous ways to offer learning and development opportunities as integral to campaigns. For example:

  • Broaden the ideation/evaluation process to include all the tasks of an innovation process that can be used across functions, cultures, and stakeholders. For example: (1) The first half of the process involves defining goals, naming what’s at stake, drawing on strengths, analyzing key factors and issues. This provides the “raw materials” for innovation and (2) The second half of the process involves generating ideas, evaluating/deciding on solutions, implementing solutions, and assessing achievement and new knowledge gained. This turns the raw material into innovative solutions and benefits.
  • Provide skill-building tips/exercises at critical moments for each task in the process, to deepen the knowledge and skills for doing those tasks well. For example: Offer tools/techniques on the IT-system itself for goal-setting, analysis, creative idea-generation, decision-making, implementation-planning at key junctures in the innovation process
  • Offer “just in time” learning of innovation competencies and behaviors on a self-study basis through a learning management system (LMS). These learning programs can be targeted to different constituencies, such as individual contributors, teams, new and mid-level leaders, and senior leaders.
  • Include opportunities for self-assessment and feedback on key innovation skills, to improve self-awareness and skill versatility. For example: Offer self-assessments (and/or team assessments) on innovative thinking styles, teamwork, and motivation to impact a campaign and on-the-job innovation

In closing

Two viewpoints comprise the through-line of this conversation:

  • Sponsors of innovation can accelerate their impact on business results by partnering with Talent Development to: (1) Build the innovation competencies of their employees and (2) Provide real-time learning interventions during innovation campaigns
  • Talent Development professionals can accelerate their impact on business performance by taking the lead in developing the innovation competencies of leaders, individuals, and teams across the organization

Viewpoints have power and consequences. From our decades of experience consulting with multinational corporations, we strongly believe that these two viewpoints have a “fit” with the times. They have a vitality that empowers innovation sponsors to lead, engage, and transform their organizations… and thereby make a quantum leap in the impact of their innovation campaigns on near-term and long-term business success.

Read Part 1: Innovation is the core driver to meet critical business needs

Read Part 2: Professional knowledge and motivation: essential, but not sufficient

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William Miller's picture
About the author

William C. Miller, co-founder of Values Centered Innovation, is passionate about integrating emotional intelligence, human values, and mental discipline with our innate capabilities to be innovative.