Tuesday, May 02, 2006

L-earning I-nnovation F-riendly E-nvironment

Anol at SoulSoup has picked up some good points from the Business Innovation Insider regarding developing innovation-friendly environments. Having read the points raised in the article I am left feeling a little unfulfilled: I know that's what I would want in my workplace, but how likely is an organisation to do this? And what would this 'look' like across various organisations?

The rhetoric about 'being innovative' is often free-flowing, but in practice organisations can really tighten the reins on their employees! Check out the Brand Camp cartoon (by Tom Fishburne) on Business Innovation Insider - the imagery says this is all too true! :o)

I'd like to further discuss the five ingredients for an innovative environment with my colleagues to develop a sense of how this might 'look' in our organisation, an educational institution:

  • Purpose
  • Ownership
  • Risk
  • Affinity
  • Interdependence

As Business Innovation Insider (Dec 2, 2005) says,

In reality, innovation is the outcome of an environment that fosters and embraces new thinking (my emphasis).

...rather than coming up with the cool, creative ideas as such! We seem to put so much energy into producing the glossy report that shows how well we've done, without fostering the community within the organisation who will actually produce the (potentially) fantastic work in the first place!

Why do we find it so hard to develop workable teams in the workplace? Why is it so difficult to bring different areas and departments together to work on a common outcome or goal -- after all, are they not part of the same organisation? How do we manage personal agendas in favour of the organisation's goals?

It's easy to speak the rhetoric and to lay out the plan, and yes, we feel like we are doing something and contributing to the organisation, but how do we manage the implementation and stay motivated and focused on the goal at hand? What will it take for us to develop the affinity (timing & speed of the implementation) and the interdependence (quality of the implementation) between departments and work teams or groups to encourage innovative practice in our organisations?

As I see it (and I'm sure you would too) the five ingredients referred to above are interlinked rather than operating as a linear process. We need a sense of purpose to develop a common language and understanding within the organisation, which in turn is fostered by the level of affinity amongst workers. With this, facilitating interdependence contributes to the ongoing development of workplace relations, fostering the interactions between workers and working with their strengths in various areas. Once the working community has established, the ownership and risk-taking elements grow from within.

Innovation develops from understanding your organisation and its purpose enough to feel confident in taking risks, supported by the level of ownership and confidence in the working relationships fostered in the organisation.

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