Innovation Redefined: How to Transform Your Organization’s Mindset to Adapt to Change

Business Tech Woman

By Laura Brown, President, ADP Major Account Services and ADP Canada

Change is often borne of innovation. By its very nature, innovation drives transformation by introducing something new. While technology has often served as the “new,” innovation reaches beyond the tangible to encompass thoughts and ideas. This distinction is important in an age where technology and innovation are often used interchangeably.

Technology is an accelerant, enabling people to think big and achieve bigger. However, it’s not the only element that can make organizations stronger, faster and more successful. An organization’s collective mindset is just as essential. Innovation is about having a mindset for perpetual change and feeling empowered to continuously adapt.

Guest column: Innovation Redefined How to Transform Your Organization’s Mindset to Adapt to Change by Laura Brown of @ADP. #HR #HRTech Click To Tweet

For companies to be truly innovative, they have to thread innovation across their organizations and challenge their teams to think differently and break the norm. Providing your people with the right resources is important, but equally so is creating an environment that inspires their curiosity, encourages them to take calculated risks and celebrates their successes both large and small. This shift in mindset is achievable for any type of business and starts with these actions leaders can take themselves.  

Challenge people to reimagine processes. Questions are powerful tools. One way to get minds thinking creatively is to pose a pointed question. Envision a desired end result and ask the question that will help get you there: “What would it take to turn this into a $100 billion business?” Or, “What would we need to do to turn this 10-hour process into a one-hour process?” The aim is to grant them the freedom to start from scratch in their thinking.

Keeping the goals lofty helps people set aside the immediate logic of the situation and inspires them to think about the problem more innovatively. You’re inviting them to restructure and recreate processes in the expanse of their minds, removing them from any barriers they might be perceiving in their day-to-day routines. You might not ultimately hit your target, but the thinking that flows from your theoretical discussions could uncover opportunities that get you closer to your goals. Challenging people in this way can help you make more progress than focusing on iterative change.

Teach your organization to accept calculated risk. When you talk about transforming anything in our world, especially in the workplace, you’re taking a chance. There’s a vulnerability and even fear that prevents people from trying a different approach. To counter that impulse, remind everyone that a new idea doesn’t have to be perfect. Be willing to fail and give your team that same safety net. Teach your innovators the power of asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Then challenge them further to ask, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

Testing change in controlled ways helps remove some of that fear of failure. Run limited pilots that affect just a small part of the business or its customer base, and put measures in place to make sure those pilots don’t negatively impact other departments in the process. By ring-fencing, you can mitigate risk. However, you want to avoid ring-fencing to the point where any potential benefit you might have realized is lost.

It’s additionally important to be targeted in your definition of success to better evaluate the outcome. For example, if your plan is to roll out additional features within a product, you might hit your target number of features, but are those features driving customer satisfaction or growth? Be intentional with measurement to recognize which concept worked and which offered opportunity for improvement. Remember that even failed experiments can provide your organization with valuable insights.

Trust your team’s expertise. The people who are closest to the work have the knowledge to solve the problems. Leading an innovative team is about empowering those individuals. I once had an individual flag a component of a process to me that she had an idea for improving. It was a tried and true process we could have easily resorted to maintaining out of comfort, but I gave her the freedom to explore her idea and build a pilot plan. By trusting her expertise, we unlocked a new way of doing business we might not have discovered otherwise.

By allowing your team the space to think creatively, you’re helping to exercise their innovative tendencies. If they were given the freedom to run with their ideas before, they’re apt to keep raising the bar on potential for themselves and the business.

Give everyone the opportunity to share their voice. Innovation thrives in diverse environments. When building a project team, make sure it’s representative of diverse backgrounds and experiences. Draw in people from functions across your business, especially those who may not usually work together closely. Great ideas are often strengthened through collaboration and connecting people with different ways of thinking. 

Counterintuitively, recruit people whose viewpoints differ or who might be a harder sell when it comes to change. Their perspectives are important in identifying any holes in your thinking and informing alternate approaches. Seeking their input at the outset can also help you when it comes time to socialize the change with the broader organization down the road. 

Keep the lines of communication open. One of the best ways to encourage innovation is to put a sourcing mechanism in place. For instance, you might set up a message board or some other digital vehicle that encourages employees to propose new approaches to business, offer comments and bounce ideas off colleagues. Adding a social element to the process keeps everything transparent and allows people to watch ideas across the organization form and develop. People can also see when their feedback is acted on, which further encourages them to contribute and helps build a larger culture of innovation.

With many workers still remote, the virtual environment makes having a mechanism in place even more important. Without opportunities to spontaneously collaborate during a coffee break or a visit to a colleague’s desk, a central hub from which employees can share ideas and seek feedback can keep innovation building.

As businesses continue to navigate a dynamic operating environment, those that can think innovatively and adapt to change will be the ones who find themselves on stronger footing.  

Laura Brown is President of Major Account Services and ADP Canada. In that role, she leads a team that helps midsized businesses leverage scalable, human capital management solutions. Disclosure: ADP is a sponsor of the HCM Technology Report.

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