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Should innovation be the responsibility of all employees?

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In this blog the Managing Partner of our office in Malaysia, Deva Param, asks the question “Should innovation be the responsibility of all employees?”

Should innovation be the responsibility of all employees?

I recently watched a video featuring Jack Ma (after his long absence) where he described innovation as nothing more than an idea that comes to a person’s mind that would have an impact on the lives of consumers and eventually a company’s revenue. He mentioned that “when we hear about innovation or digitalisation, the first thought is always on Technology and Computers”.  But innovation is far from that, and in a rapidly changing world, it’s no longer just the responsibility of the R&D Department alone. Everyone in an organisation needs to find new ways to create value, either to improve processes, products, or customer interventions.

What do the most innovative companies do?

Regardless of industry, consumer habits are changing fast.  This new breed of consumer has different needs in the way they view, decide and purchase a product or service. Added to this, the “disruptive marketing” options that spread across industries mean more and more companies find very little choice but to innovate.

One of our of clients in Malaysia, a local company that deals with specialist ingredients for the Food & Beverage sector, puts innovation high up on their “Balanced Scorecard” and encourages everyone in the organisation to “pull their weight” when it comes to innovation.   They pay attention to the voices from the ground up, listening to the ideas that emerge for better products, client experience and internal process improvements. In this way, everyone contributes to innovation.

If you are an employee (and not in R&D), spending time and brainpower on innovation in addition to your day-to-day responsibilities may be fairly low down on your to do list. But as the world around keeps changing at a pace, we all need to think about innovation differently. In Malaysia our experience of working on design thinking and cultural change programmes for our clients has confirmed this belief that we need to get the commitment of all employees to innovate. Even a fairly straightforward cultural change project requiring new ways of working, and mindset and behavioural change, can’t happen without the involvement and innovation of all employees.

No idea is a bad idea, leaders need to keep an open mind

Employees need to feel empowered to bring new ideas to the table. In some organisations this will require a radical change in mindset and culture. While R&D departments will remain, leaders need to set the belief that all ideas are welcome, that no idea is a bad idea. New forums for idea sharing may need to be established and, critically, leaders need to step in and embrace this wisdom from the masses, test the logic with an open mind, before making a judgement call.

Innovation is everyone’s job

While there are many ways for organisations to innovate and  succeed, it can’t only be left to the few people who have ‘innovation’ in their job title.  It needs to be on everyone’s radar, an organisation-wide effort which is embedded in culture.   Include metrics for innovation in employees’ performance reviews and recognise and celebrate innovation promptly and effectively no matter how small it is. You will see that the impact will go a long way.

If you would like support to embed a culture of innovation in your organisation get in touch.

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