How often do we find people going beyond what their job mandates them to do, even if they don’t have the time to; and conversely, how often do we find people limiting themselves to their mundane daily tasks, despite having the requisite time? What causes this dichotomy, and how can organizations define mechanisms to address it? This interesting premise formed the basis of a thought-provoking discussion, anchored by Salil Deshmukh (Sr. Vice President: HR Operations and Expert Services, Reliance) as a part of the curtain-raiser for TechHR 2017, People Matters’ marquee HR technology conference.
In essence, it’s all about the culture of innovation, as Salil put it.
Organizations need to cultivate a culture which gives individuals the space to define their own specific, selective goals.
This is where the role of managers assumes criticality. In a majority of the cases, the reason behind a lack of autonomy in working style of an employee is the boss. When a boss is the sole deciding authority on their reportee’s job role and developmental plans, there is going to be very little freedom for the reportee to do anything else. Organizations need to stem that, for their workforce to innovate.
They should also realize that with innovation, comes the possibility of failure. Acknowledging the failures and doing a deep investigative dive to find out what went wrong, can go a long way in ensuring that similar mistakes are not committed in the future. For that to happen though, it is important to ‘fail fast’. Especially for product-based organizations, which are ringing in so many innovations so frequently, it is imperative that the cycle of ideation-implementation-dissection happens swiftly, so that they can quickly move on and be dynamic with their offerings.
In addition to that, leaders can support the fostering of innovation by being vulnerable, which means that they are not a 100 percent sure if they will succeed. It also means that they will be open to admit it when something which they ventured into, failed.
For an entire workforce looking up to their leaders and following every move of theirs, this gives the confidence to be bold and take risks.
Finally, all participants in the discussion agreed that setting aside a separate fund for innovation within the organization can actually help in enabling the employees to have an avenue for expressing their ideas freely. Having the flexibility to form cross-level, or cross-vertical teams wherein the project owner has the choice of selecting her/his team members can certainly catalyze this process.