Motivating Innovation: Human Resource Executives Command Many Tools to Foster Innovative Workplace Cultures
Gurchiek, Kathy, HRMagazine
When U.S. athlete Dick Fosbury sailed over the high jump bar at 7 feet, 4 1/4 inches during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, he set a record with the "Fosbury Flop."
Twisting his body, he arched his back to sail over the bar with his feet above his head. The odd technique was a revolution from previous methods--the scissors kick, the California western roll, the straddle--and garnered Fosbury a gold medal and a place in history. It soon came to be the dominant method of high jumping.
It's a lesson for leaders on the importance of innovation, said Vijay Govindarajan, business professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., and chief innovation consultant for General Electric. The challenge for organizations, Govindarajan said in a recent webinar, "is to make money with your scissors [technique] while simultaneously transforming the scissors" to go for the gold in the marketplace.
This is especially important during a recession, he said. "If you don't take the right actions in the recession, you don't participate in the expansion. There are going to be new winners and new losers."
Forward thinkers foster a culture of innovation to gain competitive advantage, and their efforts can take many forms--from new products and market expansion to ways of doing business.
However, investing in innovation may be viewed by some organizations as too risky at a time when they are scrutinizing every expenditure, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes in its 2009 Workplace Visions article, "Innovative Work Teams in a Challenging Business Environment."
For organizations up to the challenge, though, the SHRM researchers point out, "it's the kind of strategic investment that will pay dividends now and in the years ahead."
It falls to HR professionals to help their organizations cultivate an atmosphere in which all employees see innovation as an investment in the future instead of an expensive indulgence during flush times.
"Creating the future is really all about creating new capabilities--and building new capabilities is the function of human resources," Govindarajan said.
Organizations and employees require five core values for innovation to occur, according to Judy Estrin, author of Closing the Innovation Gap: Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy (McGraw-Hill, 2008):
* Curiosity and a natural ability to question the status quo.
* Risk-taking and a willingness to learn from failure.
* Openness. Organizations with strong silos tend to be less innovative, Estrin says.
* Patience, tenacity and the sense of giving an idea a chance to grow.
* Trust, underpinning the other values.
"As keepers of the corporate culture, HR can help promote these values and instill them into the process of building work teams," SHRM researchers say in the report.
HR should partner with leaders to drive those values through companies, Estrin says. That entails considering any barriers to innovation and looking at systems, such as social networking and other collaborative tools, to foster exchange of ideas and information.
Consider FedEx's "portfolio approach" that includes incremental and …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Motivating Innovation: Human Resource Executives Command Many Tools to Foster Innovative Workplace Cultures. Contributors: Gurchiek, Kathy - Author. Magazine title: HRMagazine. Volume: 54. Issue: 9 Publication date: September 2009. Page number: 30+. © 1999 Society for Human Resource Management. COPYRIGHT 2009 Gale Group.
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