There is a fundamentally new class of individuals entering and circulating in the job market. They tend to be adaptable and mobile, East-Coast-educated but West Coast-bound, willing to take risks, technically sophisticated, and social adept. They also are more interested in learning than in their salary. Most importantly, however, they don’t want to work in the traditional workplace environment.
In the Deloitte’s Work Environment Redesign report, John Hagel and John Seely Brown show that there has been a massive innovation shift in the world—a shift built on some of the structures led by these individuals. In the 20th century, we viewed institutions as the force that shaped individuals—that created people who were comfortable working in factories and standardized bureaucracies. In the 21st century, on the other hand, individuals are reshaping institutions, using their agile minds and bringing their powerful networks of resources with them.
Here are six ways to make innovation a reality in our increasingly interconnected world.
1) Become a platform for connections and networks. Leaders of your company must recognize the importance of connections inside and outside of the company in driving greater performance and in supporting trust, collaboration, and exchange of creative ideas between employees. To be innovative, your company must be at the crossroads of a wide range of diverse networks.
2) Invest in potential, not just expertise of individuals. An individual with expertise is one who has done work before of great value and who is likely to do great work again, while an individual with potential is given opportunities to take on roles she hasn’t done before because she has demonstrated the skills that make it likely for her to succeed. To make the most use of the individuals dominating the current job market and unlock their full capabilities as innovators, you must place value on both potential and expertise in your employees.
3) Make “exception handling” a priority in recruiting. When we hire, we often choose those with process skills, but what companies really need are adept employees who are prepared to handle risks and change. In the end, it will be the “exceptions”—the risk takers and the unconventional thinkers—who will step up as leaders and push forward innovation in your company.
4) Shift your notion of intellectual property. Intellectual property is any work or invention to which one has exclusive rights. While there is intellectual property where exclusive rights really matter, much of it is obsolete. Instead, companies can benefit from being more selective in which of their ideas they choose to protect as intellectual property. Innovation is often the result of the exchange of ideas, and intellectual property rights can sometimes hinder such an exchange—in turn preventing important discussion, collaboration, and further creativity. To enhance the innovative drive of your employees, you may want to reassess the value placed on intellectual property within your company.
5) Start with the experimental side of your business. Risk-taking is key to innovation. However, when taking new risks, make sure not to play with the core of your business. Instead, begin at the edge of your business as you allow more experimentation within your company. Only once you have noticed productive results can you more fully incorporate experimentation in your company culture.
6) Turn your Employee Resource Groups into Business Innovation Groups. Your employee resource groups may have unique insight to offer on new products and services that could better serve previously untapped markets and communities. Allow them to share this insight with your company as business innovation groups instead. The more voices heard in company discussion, the more likely innovation is to follow.
The job market is changing, your employees are changing, and ultimately the workplace is changing. In the wave of change, there is increasing room for new talent and creativity—and now is your chance to make innovation a reality.
Erica Dhawan is the Founder & CEO of Cotential, a global innovation firm that helps organizations unleash the connected potential of people everywhere to solve their most pressing challenges. Follow @cotential and @edhawan for more innovation updates.