Apart from all the babble and the theories about innovation, the fact that it is people who innovate is yet to be disputed if not totally comprehended. However, when I asked a recruiter recently why she was not looking at defining the output of the role of Head – HR (unfortunately, human resources is still the word out there though some people have fashioned to Talent and People Officer) as increasing the innovation capacity of the enterprise, she was short for an answer.
I have been championing the cause of an innovation platform for more than a decade now; whether it is in the businesses I worked or in the start-ups I have created. I had a few run-ins on the subject with “experts” and others; there is the usual song and dance around the fire about what the great things they have achieved in idea generation using the innovation platform. Again, I have very humbly sought to know how from many of them how many of those ideas have seen the light of the commercial day and how they have been institutionalized; and I have largely drawn a blank. To put the record in perspective, Facebook hasn’t changed the Quality of Life of any of the millions of its members. The usual suspect list of Innovators still chugs with 3M, GE, Nokia, Apple, Sony, Erickson and so on.
Statistics is not an answer for every season but is indeed a beneficial aid in the climate of unreason. There is acknowledgement now that Change Management is indeed an essential element of Innovation. But beyond that smart nugget, there is very little substantive action evidenced uniformly; across established business and new start-up business models on its application to facilitate innovation. The readiness of the people of their enterprise to think and act differently; at a more rapid pace with less time and lesser resources than their comfort zone affords them.
Simply put, new buzz words cannot alone make an impact on the transformation / change to be achieved. The implication of Innovation is a fundamental shift to the existing context and its related structures; be it in thinking or implementation. And Change Management needs to address the people to be responsive to such shifts in currents with a rapidity that is not the normal. This is a process because it might be easier to achieve it on 5 or 50 people uniformly and difficult as the mass percentage increases on any of the counts of Quality, Cost, Delivery, Service and / or Flexibility.
This brings me to the moot point of this edition of my blog. The first part of Innovation is in getting the aggregation of ideas into a concept right with time as a key lever. The shelf life of the ideas generated and their preservation at the different stages to be taken up for implementation has lessons from the home kitchens. It is then that these ideas and concepts in their various stages of preparedness that come to life as commercial products or processes that needs to be managed to generate value for customers / consumers that needs to be managed.
The traditional human resources must now address more than ever how they can create an environment of Continuous Learning. The Learning here is not to be mistaken with training (I have been repeatedly pointed in that direction by Heads of Human Resources when discussing the subject of Learning). Specifically, Learning is about increasing the “Perceptive Quality” of the people in the organization. Perception is the ability to interpret the meaning of what the senses present. The challenge however is that, the senses are presented with the right stimulus in the first place to generate a contextual interpretation. The critical part where the Strategic Leadership of a Business Enterprise needs to get an agreement with the Human Resources / Capital function is the ability to create the environment that allows people to sense and respond to the dynamic context of their business. Ideas are always produced to a certain context and are not produced in a vacuum. Capacity to change is governed by the motivation of the people of an enterprise that is triggered by the “Learning Environment” that enables contextual perception leading to Innovative ideas for the business.
Similarly, ideas produced within the enterprise or in its value chain have to be aggregated into concepts and implemented and benefits realized in the business. The processes of Mind to Market and Time to Market must operate mutually inclusively and concurrently acting as the growth engine. This requires more of the skills of the enterprise either within or in its value chain to succeed continuously as a process. Such skills that are contextual to an enterprise and its strategic circumstance must be promoted actively.
The organization of the modern day enterprise will need to change dramatically. This will be a process matrixed organization structure that shared information in real-time across the value chain. The Head of HR has a very important and critical role in changing the organization structure (please refer the following Illustration) and becoming a strategic profit center rather than a traditional administrative cost center. The process of change and its very architecture are entirely dependent on how effectively the dance of change is orchestrated with the right Capabilities (Capacity to Change + Ability to Act). The re-alignment of processes and the resulting Information Structure must become the new paradigm for an organization that aims to be listed under the successful innovator list; be it an established business or a start-up. Without exception, this model will help create a new world order where the way in which information is transacted and processed can improve the quality of life; be it in a business enterprise or a society. It would be significant to see more products reaching a global audience segmented by both; demography and pyschography thereby allowing value to be established and sustained. Business models such as this will automatically allow for bringing trade barriers and allow competition based on merit and value. The real value of innovation can only then be realized.