Archive for May, 2018

Building An Innovation Mindset

May 28th, 2018

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have…. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led and how much you get it” – Steve Jobs

Whilst most business leaders openly acknowledge that innovation is a critical driver of growth and the demand for it has never been so high, so constant and so ‘now’, many are still challenged by how to best lead and manage it. Coupled with the fact that many people don’t actually believe they are capable of it, leaders can face a big challenge in building innovation mindsets in their people and businesses. As a result all too often the innovation process has been relegated to business units such as marketing and research development – where all those ‘creative types’ hang out!

With studies suggesting that over 65% of today’s business leaders still lack the confidence and know how to stimulate innovative thinking in their teams and organisations we are limiting both our immediate results and our future potential. It is clear that a failure to deliver on innovation has the potential to not only hurt our business success but also our own individual career success and that of the people we lead. So how do we approach the building of innovation mindsets?

Innovation so very rarely happens as a result of one or two genius’s that work away on a spark of an idea and reappear with a roadmap for a new direction, approach or way forward. In the Wall Street Journal article, titled Together We Innovate, the authors emphasise the importance of employee collaboration in an effort to generate new ideas and ways of operating. As they state, ‘most innovations are created through networks – groups of people working in concert’.

There is no doubt that workplace culture is the linchpin. Whilst structures and processes are important they are not the key. People and culture are by far the most important drivers of innovation and therefore need to be our focus. By creating the right conditions we not only make better use of our often-untapped talent, we can also allow for dynamic innovation networks to emerge and flourish.

The advantage of building innovation networks is in the shift in emphasis from individual creativity or intelligence to the leveraging of connections and collected experience and knowledge. Networked employees typically innovate at a different level and have an ability to make their ideas ‘catch on’ more quickly. Given that new ideas spur more new ideas, networks then have the capacity to generate a cycle of innovation. They key is to ensure that there is enough diversity of thinking, knowledge and experience to ensure the cross fertilisation of ideas. When they do, leaders are then able to capture more value from their existing resources without embarking on major change initiatives.

As leaders I would encourage you to consider the following six tips that you can do to foster an environment of innovation:

  • Create a culture of trust: Innovation requires us to step outside of the ‘everyday way’, to break down the old rules of thought and adopt new ones. It requires new levels of transparency and vulnerability and our people will only engage when they feel safe to do so.
  • Create opportunities for everyone to contribute: Innovation requires diversity of thought. Successful leaders know that in order to obtain that diversity we need input from a variety of sources – internally and externally. It is in this diversity of contribution that new ideas and pathways are explored and at a level that could not have been found if we were to attempt it alone.
  • Create belief in our abilities to innovate: Innovation requires curiosity of thought. It is through this exploration and the sharing of our thoughts in a safe environment that allows us to recognise how our contribution is valued.
  • Make innovation easy to ‘do’: Consider your physical environment, how you interact, what tools you need, what supporting frameworks you need and the space that brings people together. Innovation is also a discipline so it requires us to invest in prioritising time for it.
  • Link the process with the outcome: Innovation is not a popularity contest. It is not just a matter of the ‘winning’ idea getting up. To arrive at the ‘winning’ ideas invariably we have had to iterate many times and revisit, review, throw out or tweak and evolve many different thoughts. Individual contributions are all part of the road to the final outcome.

As leaders how we foster innovation matters. Moving it out of the domains of the one or two ‘creative types’ and into the domain of the broader business is critical. In doing so we not only unlock new opportunities for the organisation but also ourselves and the people we lead.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts.

What’s Next: Are You At A Career Junction?

May 15th, 2018

“People too often forget that it is your own choice how you want to spend the rest of your life” – Author unknown

At some point in our careers you will inevitably arrive at a critical career junction. Not because something has gone wrong, but often because lots of things have gone right. You have worked hard, delivered great work and built great teams and then all too easily you can find yourself asking ‘what’s next?’ In the early stages of our career the what’s next is often easier to answer as there appears to be more options available. However when this happens midway through your career after significant investment has been made to get to where you are, these junctions can feel a bit confronting.

For me, my significant career juncture was in making the decision to globally relocate and return ‘home’ to Australia. After seven years in the UK I was offered a very attractive role that offered significant career progression with the consulting firm I had been working with. On paper, the career benefits were obvious – career progression, fantastic learning, regional leadership responsibilities and greater profile in both the organization and the industry. I had loved living in the UK but ultimately I knew that I wanted to live in Australia and accepting this next position – which I was absolutely ready for –also meant staying in the UK for probably another three years minimum if I was to derive the benefits of the role.  Given the organization did not have a presence in Australia there was no option of internal relocation so the decision was not a light one.

Career junctures are largely arrived at as a result of movement or from the desire for movement. Whilst my career juncture was driven by a decision to move locations, for others these junctures may be the result of decisions made about types of work or ways of working. For some people it is about internal movement such as secondment, promotion or sideways moves; whilst others are about external movement out of an organisation. Some are looking to expand their opportunities whilst others are looking to reduce it. Some of these situations are within our control whilst others are not (eg restructures and redundancies). Regardless of why you have arrived at the juncture all involve conscious decision-making and often a shift or movement of mindset, approach and engagement.

As individuals most of us recognize the challenges of moving from one path to the next can be challenging and yet very few of us take the time to invest in the planning for it. For many the failure of focusing on this phase means that their desires for movement never materialise and we stay exactly where we are. Needless to say this can be extremely dangerous as we risk not only fulfillment but a loss of momentum and impact in what we do. For others this failure to plan can prove costly in terms of time wasted, loss of opportunity and misplaced energy.

Like many things in life, the best learnings in life often occur because of hardship and failure. Personally for me, I completely under-estimated the challenge of relocation and as a result had no real plan. I returned to a new city with few networks and to a market that largely didn’t exist in Australia. The lack of planning proved costly in terms of how I positioned myself to the market and the level at which I re-entered.

Whilst we all appreciate that we are operating in times of unprecedented change and volatility we all need to develop long term career goals. This is not about defining the name of the role (for many there is a good chance that these roles may not exist and will almost certainly not exist in their current form) but rather about what you want from your career: what you want to contribute to; how you want to work; and what you want to gain from your career.

So what are the critical elements of establishing your critical career goals? I would strongly encourage you to consider the 3 following building blocks:

  1. Build Clarity: Around what you can do (Skills, Knowledge, Experience); what you want to do (Values, Career Anchors) and where you think you best fit (Personality, People, Culture).
  1. Build Demand: Become the expert in what it is that you do and the way in which you do it. Learn how to position yourself as the expert and give people and organisations a reason to want to engage with you.
  1. Build Transferability: Identify where your skills and capabilities also apply. Remain relevant to the future of your business, your industry, and your networks and become nimble enough to adapt and leverage with the inevitable changes ahead.

Ultimately we are all free to choose what we do, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices. Choosing great career paths that continue to grow, provide fulfillment and purpose takes careful consideration. If you would like to explore ways to build clarity, demand and transferability, why not get in touch today.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.


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