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By The Numbers

Workplace Survey, Findings

1.Workers are struggling to work effectively. 

When focus is compromised in pursuit of Collaboration, neither works well.

2. Effective workplaces balance focus and collaboration. 

Workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful.

3. Choice drives performance and innovation. 

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative and have higher-performing employees.


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Innovation is no longer optional for organizations. In the face of constant pressures, growing demand, and a quickening pace of change, all organizations need to build innovation-ready cultures. However, what does it take to build innovation capacity, and how leaders set the right conditions for innovation to flourish? Polina Makievsky, an expert in change management and leadership, describes six ways to tackle old challenges in new ways and moving to action on innovation:


1. All are responsible for innovation
Charging only the CEO or executive team with innovation creates unrealistic pressure on one or a few individuals to continually drive the organization forward, as compared to a culture where every  member  feels a sense of responsibility  to solve problems and create better solutions at whatever level and in whatever role they operate. Because the culture assumes everyone has insights and expertise that can contribute to solutions, so all employees become accountable.

Evidence suggests that innovation is most likely to occur and originate with the people who are closest to the work, and closest to the consumer or end user. When organizations seek to involve people who have firsthand and direct knowledge of the systems they seek to improve, the problems they desire to fix, or the new solutions they want to offer they will find the best solutions—and likely faster than if they limit this work to a select few leaders.

2. Keep the end user or client at the center of everything you do
While most organizations intend to deliver the best products and services for their clients, their approach is too often driven by its own beliefs, mindsets, and ideas of what people need and how people behave. While it is natural to look at the world through one’s own perspective, it is problematic because organizations are likely to develop a solution that works for their staff and organization rather than the client.

One of the most important challenge for organizations to develop an authentic empathy for the client. They should get close to and observe the people for whom they are innovating to understand their needs, motivations and actual behaviors looking for more viable, valued and sustainable solutions.

3. Work based on positive goals rather than problems
Identifying problems is important, but it shouldn’t be the final step before identifying solutions. To build innovation capacity and motivate employees, it’s important to define an aspirational goals for every innovation effort. For every “innovation” or problem-solving initiative, organizations should create a positive goal statement that clearly articulates who it seeks to impact and what behavior change it seeks to achieve.

This is important for a few reasons. First, an organization that defines the specific behavior change it wants to see doesn’t have to guess about what success will look like. And second, by defining the desired future state, it can look for examples where these behaviors are already occurring. When studying a problem, organizations can become fixated and overwhelmed by what’s not working, but when they define the desired solution, they can seek out and study the examples where things are working and seek to understand the contributing factors that make this positively deviant behavior occur.

4. Do not try to eat the whale in one swallow
People often think innovation has to be a big, new, wild, exciting idea. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. A frequent comment is “But these ideas aren’t really big ideas. They seem like things we should just be doing.” Well, if it’s something “we should just be doing, and we haven’t,” let’s start there.

Innovation is rarely a magical “eureka” moment; rather, it’s often an iterative process of solving problems—sometimes very small ones. Instead of trying to eat the whale in one swallow, organizations should tackle smaller, incremental challenges. Practicing problem solving on a small scale is valuable because it builds the skills and confidence for the times when organizations need to tackle the bigger, more complex challenges. It teaches us to break complex challenges into manageable pieces. The other benefit of taking on small problems is that it reduces the risks of failure.

5. Explore the weird, wild and wrong ways to do things
It’s very hard to generate unique solutions when the ideation process focuses on practicality. But when organizations invite people to explore weird, wrong, or unorthodox ideas, there’s a good chance they will generate unique solutions that can, over time, be made practical.

New ideas should be catalyzed by questions that invite people to consider possibilities for approaching challenges in novel ways. For example, inviting people to consider what work would be like if the organization did the exact opposite of what’s expected is the fastest path to uncovering desired “out-of-the-box” ideas.

6. Test you ideas to fail fast and cheap
Perhaps because resources are limited organizations tend to rush to identify and implement a single “right” solution. This is problematic because rushing to find a singular, practical solution causes them to short circuit a very important process—first generating many solutions.

Innovators don’t rush into large scale implementation without first subjecting their ideas to multiple iterations of testing to uncover potential pitfalls. If an idea doesn’t work during testing, it isn’t at the cost of a major commitment or outlay of resources. And if the idea has legs, testing and repeated cycles of feedback will only make the idea better, stronger, and more likely to succeed.

Innovation doesn’t have be fancy or gimmicky, but it sometimes requires that we cast off deeply held notions of how to lead people and organizations, and adopt new norms and behaviors.