There’s no question business today occurs in a competitive and disruptive setting. The big puzzle for companies—whether small or large—and their employees is how to navigate such an environment.  And an innovative, commitment-based culture tops the solution list.

When we think about innovation, companies such as Apple, NetFlix, Alibaba, Google, and Amazon readily come to mind. And yet, not one of these companies would have made the cut without actively engaged, creative employees, making it happen every step of the way.

NFI’s Innovation survey reveals that while 85 percent of employees say innovation is a fundamental driver for growth and profit for their company only 5.90 percent of the respondents are receptive to innovative ideas coming to them from the organization. And of even greater concern, 83.10 percent spend less than 25 percent of their time working on innovation; and of that number, 42.25 percent spend less than 10 percent of their time on this agenda.

Let’s address the concerns employees say impedes them from being an innovator:

Too Little Time—
72.34 percent of respondents named this issue.[1]

Organizations tend to focus their employees’ attention on the functional side of the business rather than the pioneering/improvement side. Such single-mindedness only weakens organizations in the long run. It’s the “both and” conversation that leads to both successful operations and effective, innovative strategies. When companies base their employee’s success on the number of urgent “to do” tasks executed, they’re developing results junkies, which is entirely at odds with producing an innovative workforce.

You can’t permit employees to become so content with producing “today” outcomes they lose sight of the future and never incorporate innovative thought in their everyday activities.

Managers Key Solutionby replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team‘s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team.[ii]

Without question, developing an innovative track-record is a critical dynamic for a thriving company. And the key to fostering such an energized, creative-directed work base comes with strong corporate leaders and managers.

Each has a role to play. Leaders inspire the workforce, protect the culture, provide resources, establish a clear game plan and hold the organization accountable for the innovation initiatives, but mid-level managers are where the rubber meets the road.

Unclear Visionthree-year total returns to shareholders are three times higher at companies where employees understand corporate objectives and the way in which their jobs contribute to achieving them.[iii]

It isn’t enough to announce, with a flurry of fanfare, the organization’s strategy. Companies must, also, recognize how crucial repetitive, clear messaging is to engage the heart and mind of their workforce. Leaders and managers should consider sharing: “This is specifically the strategy, and this is how your work connects to it.” Such “big picture” dialogue along with drilling-down to connect the daily detail enables employees to eliminate any miscues. This transparency permits them to key in on long-term innovative opportunities as they arise.

What are you going to take on to move you and your organization to innovative profitability?


[1] Nancy Fredericks International Innovation Survey, Turning Your Workforce Into Profit.
[ii]Stanford University Report
[iii][iTowers Watson, Study


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