Innovate to Innovate

Innovate to Innovate

How 3 Strict Processes Don’t Hinder Innovation, but Promote It

Based on data from China, Germany, and the United States, 67% of highly curious employees recognize high support for curiosity in their employers. However, 61% of low curious employees recognize little to no support for curiosity in their employers.

What could this mean? Are more curious employees likely to seek out and find more curious employers? Or do curious employers offer more opportunities for individuals to develop their inherent curiosity, while employees of less curious employers have fewer of those opportunities? More than likely, it’s some combination of these factors. Understanding this dynamic relationship is key to understanding how employees and employers alike can increase curiosity to enable innovation in their workplaces.

Figure 1: Percentage of Low Curious Employees that work for employers with low support for curiosity (61.3%) and high support for curiosity (7.7%)

Figure 2: Percentage of High Curious Employees that work for employers with low support for curiosity (12.0%) and high support for curiosity (67.0%)

Blocking Curiosity

To know how to foster innovation and create a positive workplace environment, it is important to know what not to do – specifically the actions or rules identified as obstacles for employees’ practice of curiosity. According to Fast Company, excessive process and structure can be an obstacle to some desired business outcomes. Too much structure can make employees feel that they have less ownership over their ideas. According to our State of Curiosity Survey, only 20% of respondents recognize that their companies offer personal ownership of projects and ideas.

Furthermore, autonomy is a critical support for curiosity. Excessive top-down management can stifle employees and hinder the development of trust needed for those employees to take their ideas to the next level. These organizational obstacles prevent employees from thinking outside of the box and developing new processes, ideas, and solutions. 

Boosting Curiosity

So, if you’re in a management position at your company, what can you do within your organization to actively boost workplace curiosity? According to Kurt Dykema, the Director of Technology at Twisthink, a product innovation and business strategy consultancy, a leader needs to “make it possible to implement new ideas.” Process is important; however, employees need “wiggle room”, room for growth and thinking outside the box, to allow creative thoughts to develop to innovative ideas and, ultimately, grow to groundbreaking solutions.

While process instills guidelines that would seem to counter an innovative spirit, organizations can and should instill certain processes to enable and promote innovation. The trick is that doing this well – setting your organization up for innovation success – requires innovation.

Chunka Mui of Forbes describes the Engelbart framework for the “ABCs of Organizational Improvement.” Every organization requires 3 processes to improve their current business – Processes A, B, and C.

Process A maintains the core activities of the organization. Mui explains, “The A process is all about execution – carrying out today’s strategy and business model as well as possible.”

Process B ensures that the organization improves it’s A process. Examples of process B are hiring and training programs and developing or installing new tools for organizational improvement. As Mui says, “The B process is responsible for making the A process faster, better, cheaper, and more profitable.”

Processes A and B keep an organization running. They ensure that the products and services provided by a company continue to improve in order to keep up with changes in the market and maintain a certain status quo. The C process, however, is where innovation really comes in. “The C focuses on improving the B process; it improves how we improve. It is the ‘C’ process that is too often missing or haphazard,” Mui says.

By focusing on process C, management can drive innovation in products, services, and internal processes, thereby generating business value. Examples include adopting better tools for internal use and encouraging customer co-creation, which can lead to more innovation in both processes A and B. Adopting better internal tools can increase efficiencies across teams and across an enterprise. With more time and resources available due to more efficient and streamlined processes A and B, innovation can thrive.

Additionally, by allowing customers to contribute to innovation, customers can better understand why certain ideas are more feasible than others. They will be better equipped to work with an organization to best service needs or create the most user-friendly products. Not only does customer co-creation help companies understand their target groups and craft products specific to their needs, it also fosters brand affinity among customers who become innovation partners and loyal consumers.

Curious Organizations to Curious Individuals

With innovation-encouraging processes in place and no barriers to innovation in sight, employees are ready to become more curious and their companies are ready to reap the benefits. By implementing innovation-driving processes and ensuring autonomy for employees, company leaders ensure a more curious global workforce, the type of workforce needed to generate tomorrow’s breakthroughs.

Want to see how curious you are? Check out our Self-Test and read more about the State of Curiosity in the Global Workplace.

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