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Want Innovation? Start Within Your Team


Director of Insurance Services at HNI

Business models of the future will prove to be much different than those of the past.  Tomorrow’s leaders will need to be visionaries that are able to take charge, inspire, and build momentum for change that moves their organization forward. 

InnovationCreating an environment where talented people flourish is critically important. Innovation and the ability to change in response to the market is the key to successful growth. 

Although we all know this, it is natural for human beings to resist change.  We are creatures of habit.  But for the most part, it is not the act of changing that is necessarily resisted -- it is how the change is facilitated. 

When innovation efforts go wrong

Picture this all-too-common scenario of an organization trying to drive change:  

The company has many years of history, and as with most long-standing companies, some of the staff members have pretty long tenure. 

Then, without warning, upper management decides they might be losing their competitive advantage because innovation is lagging.  They decide they need to infuse new blood into the organization to turn things around.

New management personnel, hired from the outside, are brought in to oversee long-term employees previously slated for those positions.  The new hires bring new ideas, concepts and procedures – some of which are good and precipitate growth. 

Some ideas, however, seem clearly inappropriate to those who know the company well, which severely disrupts the flow of internal operations.  The end result inevitably is an unhappy staff overall, with a group that feels undervalued and who may even believe their time spent working within the organization has been a waste. 

A better approach to driving innovation

The approach in this scenario is a recipe for failure. 

Before calling in outsiders (or at least in addition to bringing in fresh blood) an organization should give existing employees an opportunity to assist in problem solving and the initiate positive change.

Leadership needs to engage, believe in the team and show them that they matter. This is what drives a culture of innovation.

This starts with establishing clear expectations of beliefs and behaviors. My team will regularly hear me say:

“We have the best, the brightest, the most talented individuals in industry today.

We have creative problem solvers that know how to innovate to get things done.”   

Letting them know that I believe in them...and that HNI believes in them..fosters a different mindset.  It helps them to believe in themselves – as much as I do.

Your team may already have the answers  

You may be surprised to find that those closest to the work have some pretty bright ideas about how to innovate and be more efficient -- ideas that would take years for an outsider to fully understand and develop.

With the years of knowledge they bring to the table, they may be more likely to identify improvements that will fit with your culture and strengths.

This is not to say that external perspectives aren't valuable.  There are times when a fresh perspective can really challenge internal thinking and can help employees see the "forest through the trees."  But whether or not an organization engages with consultants and advisors, there should be an emphasis on building a culture with a continuous improvement mindset.   

Generating lasting change

HNI highly values its internal innovators.  How has your company encouraged innovation? Have you found the above approach to be true, or do you have a different perspective on how to foster creativity and new ideas? Let us know if the comments!


Related Content:

Careers at HNI: Join our team! 

Communicating Employee Benefits Can't Just Happen at Enrollment

The Myth of Motivation

The Technology Reset Button

Why Employers Need to Define Their Organizational Climate and Culture 



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Topics: Construction