Innovate or die… or just ask your workforce

As physicist William Pollard once said; “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable”. One of the most distinct qualities of the tech industry has been the role it plays as an agent of change, acting as the vanguard for disruptive innovation. The extent to which this disruption continues is anyone’s guess, but when you look at the outcomes of how decades old business practices are being rebooted through a whole new eco-system of tech-based products and services, you get what Pollard was on to. And if you’re in one of those sectors being disrupted, well the moral of the story is you either get on board, or get left behind.

There are several noteworthy examples of technology companies who value innovation and advocate change as a means to improving what they present to the market. Companies like Dell and Salesforce are well known for their audience engagement models, where their respective platforms ‘IdeaStorm’ and ‘IdeaExchange’ were specifically created to crowdsource ideas to herald a new kind of participatory innovation. Likewise, since joining Yahoo! as CEO, Marissa Mayer has driven the adoption of an internal initiative, where employees can suggest people and process improvements, allowing their peers to rank ideas as part of a collective consciousness. Those that reach a critical mass of votes, make their way into each divisional head’s management objectives, so they’re tasked and measured on how successfully they clear the way for employees to get on with their day jobs.

In each of the above examples, the impetus has been created by a desire to change things for the better. In the case of Dell and Salesforce, they’ve pioneered a method for gauging what customers expect from various products, using the advisory feedback from users to influence the direction of their product roadmap. As in the case of Yahoo!, while the spirit of the exercise is still the same, the management team turned to its employees as the source of inspiration, recognizing that the on-going well-being of the Company, is inextricably linked to the contentment factor of its employees. By acknowledging the duty of care to clear the path of productivity from any obstacles, they’ve made an admirable commitment to ensuring people feel engaged and heard, while innovating how they run their business.

Because as far as staying motivated is concerned, sometimes employees get stuck. And one of the knock-on effects of this is a lack of engagement. Despite wanting to achieve something more than the day-to-day grind, what ends up happening is a case of ‘business as usual’. Either because they haven’t been asked to get involved, or because they’re not inspired in a way that galvanizes action. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Giving your team an outlet to get involved by encouraging a culture of active participation will pave the way for a more connected workforce – one that’s motivated to dig deep as a contributor to a much, much bigger cause. A lot of what drives us professionally is the determination to develop a sense of achievement, and so as employers, we must continue to seek new ways to inspire our people to want to take an active role in shaping the future of business.

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