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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Driving Innovation at the Workplace

Sreehari Seetharam Sastry
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Sreehari Seetharam Sastry
In today’s dynamic marketplace, Innovation is an essential mantra to enhance business competitiveness and sustainability. A developing business environment that supports innovation can not only contribute to employment creation but also to overall economic growth. Also, promoting multiple and varied forms of workplace innovation is critical because organizations today operate in challenging environments, prompting the need for increased flexibility and knowledge-based work.

I believe creativity also plays a pivotal function in the innovation process and can help establish the company as a harbinger of performance and positive change. In order to guarantee sustainable business success, companies today need to look at the bigger picture by giving serious consideration to nurturing human creativity, investing more in human resource development and involving employees in strategic business development initiatives.

Organizational Innovation Need for Innovation: From a management and organizational perspective, the concept of workplace innovation can encompass a wide range of approaches. Various types of teamwork, employee empowerment schemes, continuous skill development and learning plans, flexible work organization arrangements and transparent communication practices can improve working conditions to achieve greater competitiveness and business sustainability. However, innovations often demands major and far-reaching changes in the underlying organizational philosophy. Even making the decision to adapt a particular form of organization can be the starting point of a transition process, which takes time. Definition of innovation: Teams often make the mistake of carrying a narrow definition of ‘innovation’. They tend to think in terms of patents or in terms of the “next $5 million product idea”. This results in teams getting disillusioned about the time and resources required and their inability to contribute to innovation. In order to build a culture of innovation it is good to define innovation as anything that provides additional value to the customer or to the company’s business. It is good to take baby steps and encourage small innovative ideas and initiatives. As the fever of innovation catches on over time, you will see that the teams are able to innovate more proficiently.

Commitment to the Cause: Another essential ingredient is belief in the process of innovation and an unambiguous commitment to work towards it. There needs to be a genuine willingness to sustain the effort. While outside encouragement may help, a genuine internal conviction is needed, both on an individual as well as from an organizational level. Support from all management levels is indispensable in helping to bring about successful organizational changes. While innovation is often treated as the last dessert in a seven-course meal, it is important for companies and teams to understand that today’s innovation is tomorrow’s “bread & butter”. Only when this is well understood, will you find that it is given the due priority and the required importance in everyone’s objectives. Only then can it move from a phase of ‘Good to have’ to a ‘Must have’.

Need for Involvement: Changes in the workplace affect the core of the organization and should involve all stakeholders from the beginning of the process. It is important to give employees a direct and participative role. Full information and consultation, as well as open communication can be paramount here. Whether the workplace change is instigated from the top-down, or from the bottom-up, a good social dialogue and agreement on the strategic direction to be followed is essential. A range of different indicators needs to be collected in order to address the concerns of various groups, including top management, line management, employees and other stakeholders. It is also important that this information is appropriately presented, to each group in order to convince them that the change is in their interest.

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