Six best innovation practices to engage Millennials and Gen Zers

All businesses are created first by ideas. Then, once you are in business, you need new thinking for design, engineering, radical improvement, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, problem-solving, customer retention, etc. Often the difference between success or failure in business is a simple idea.

On the one hand, many corporations have limited resources, funds, and time to give creative dreamers sufficient power to produce breakthrough ideas. On the other hand, other companies have many ideas, but are short on ways to assess, screen, prioritise, leverage and execute them.

Disciplined and well-managed creativity breeds successful idea generation and cross-pollination. Idea management systems and processes can help your company make innovation a discipline. They can help make the hunt for new possibilities each and every department’s business, as well as involving broader and more enthusiastic participation among managers and employees.

As we have seen, building a collaborative innovation culture comes hand in hand with conquering Millennials and Generation Z. This means you not only have to promote innovative thinking in your organisation, but also have to get a feel and touch in your corporate culture that inspire and retain these new generations.

Finally, remember as well the following six best practices:

  • Have strong leadership and role modelling
  • Promote regular learning
  • Give employees self-improvement possibilities
  • Create free time for interests and new ideas
  • Encourage and reward ideas and creativity
  • Do not forget mobile and flexible platforms to reach employees

Any organisation’s most valuable resource is its people. That being so, the capacity to obtain and inspire the best, most innovative and competent employees and to attract the leaders of tomorrow is the ultimate key for your company’s success.

FROM THE START:
Loyalty is no longer enough to both employers and the workforce

Aylin Olsun, managing partner of ASO Company
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

How to create a culture of collaborative innovation in younger generations

We have seen how Millennials and Generation Z are often disconnected from the strategic vision of a big organisation because they cannot see any links between their everyday work and the company’s business objectives.

Being able to align an individual’s everyday work and goals clearly with the organisation’s strategy gets people to think in new ways and imagine new possibilities. It makes it easy for employees to see how their contributions matter. Alignment with the organisation’s strategy becomes a personal matter, creating the foundation for increasing both engagement and personal satisfaction.

People on the front lines have, in fact, a unique perspective given their skills, experience and view into the organisation. Inviting employees to participate in the decision-making process by sharing their ideas about their work offers leaders multiple and very diverse points of view.

If you inspire people to think strategically about work, they will find ways to solve problems and opportunities for innovation that have the potential to elevate overall performance – and potentially improve their employees’ retention ratio.

With idea management software, such as Exago Smart, you can launch strategic business challenges and invite each employee to share ideas and insights on them. In other words, it allows employees, as individuals, to participate and have a say in building the company’s future together – aligning goals, seeking greater engagement and stimulating creative thinking and collaboration.

Additionally, by including evaluation mechanisms, these sophisticated platforms give the community the chance and means to assess, as a whole, the ideas presented – thus harnessing and activating your company’s collective intelligence.

In this sense, innovation management software can help you continuously find new answers, as change becomes constant. It also promotes a collaborative culture, for individuals and the community, answering directly to the main needs and motivations of both Millennials and Generation Z.

READ MORE:
Why is innovation management a powerful tool to engage Generations Y and Z

FROM THE START:
Loyalty is no longer enough to both employers and the workforce

Aylin Olsun, managing partner of ASO Company
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

Generation Z and innovation in the workplace

Understanding Gen Z is critical to your company. By 2020, more than 20 per cent of the workforce will be Gen Z, say experts on young people in the workplace. For them, innovation is the way you do business.

Also known as Post-Millennials, the iGeneration, Founders, Plurals, or the Homeland Generation, Generation Z is the demographic cohort after the Millennials. Researchers typically use starting birth years that range from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, yet there is little consensus about ending birth years.

Gen Zers have been born into the crisis period of terrorism, the global recession and climate change. They are predicted to spend their young adult years in a time of economic and social renewal. They are also living in an era of changing household structures, and are the students of today and university graduates, employees and consumers of tomorrow.

Gen Zers are part of a generation that is global, social, visual and technological. They are the most connected, educated and sophisticated generation ever. They are the early adopters, the brand influencers, the social-media drivers, the pop-culture leaders. They comprise nearly 2 billion people globally, and they do not just represent the future: they are creating it.

In general, we can say that:

They are more private: Perhaps it is because they watched their older siblings get in trouble from posting controversial content on social media, but younger teens do not want to be tracked. Apps like Snapchat have seen explosive growth in the last few years.

They are purely entrepreneurial: Like Millennials, these students plan to be pioneers, not merely settlers in a career. Of current high-school students, 72% want to start their own business. They feel like hackers, not slackers.

Statistic: About 72 per cent of current high-schoolers want to own their own businesses, and 76 per cent hope they can turn their hobbies into full-time jobs.’ For the entire duration of the Generation Zers’ lives, the world has constantly asked them for feedback, response, creativity, and opinions. Generation Zers see great value in participating in activities with their whole person. Why would they not expect the same thing from their work?

They are multi-taskers: According to almost every measurement so far, these Gen Z kids will take multi-tasking to a new level. They prefer to be on five screens at once, not two screens like Millennials. Get ready to communicate with them while they look around, not into your eyes.

They are hyper-aware: Generation Z has communicated enough with marketing researchers and academics to reveal that they experience 4D Thinking. Because their minds are streaming in so many directions, they have become post-moderns who are hyper-aware of their surroundings.

Technology-reliant: Gen Zers are addicted to technology. Gen Zers put technology in the same category as air and water. They cannot imagine living without tech innovation and being connected all the time.

Those leading creative Gen Zers must prepare to become hands-on, coaching-style managers who promote innovation while customising and calibrating their direction and feedback.

READ MORE:
How innovation can help you conquer the new generations

FROM THE START:
Loyalty is no longer enough to both employers and the workforce

Aylin Olsun, managing partner of ASO Company
Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO

Creativity, creative leadership and the value of innovation management

From janitor to CEO, everyone should be involved in your daily innovation process. The tool to deliver this change is creative thinking, in the hands of a leadership that believes in and embodies its principles.

Creative leadership is based on principles of openness, a positive outlook towards new ideas and knowledge of a set of tools to help employees discover problems, generate ideas, create robust solutions and implement the plans. Post it notes, markers and flipcharts are the media of choice for a lot of innovation activity conducted in groups.

One big drawback of this method is that groups of people need to be physically present in a room at a common time in order to achieve optimum results. While this is great for big strategic problems, it may not be the best for problems that fall in the domain of daily innovation.

How can technology lend a hand

This issue has been addressed with the advent of robust cloud based software technologies. It is now possible to use online software services to involve the whole organization in a distributed, time independent environment. Bringing employees’ expertise together, idea management software has proven to help organizations deliver results in a sustainable manner.

For sure employees and management need to be trained in the skills of phrasing challenges, evaluating ideas and non-judgmental thinking. But once this is done, companies can throw out challenges into the corporate domain and employees can submit ideas, comments, improvements and then vote and select the best ones for management to implement.

Technology can really support the concept of Daily Innovation. Challenges don’t have to be very complex. It might be hard to justify pulling eight people off their jobs and paying a facilitator to solve the problem of littering on the shop floor. However, putting out this challenge on a corporate ideation platform would allow everyone to pitch in at their leisure, deliver varying perspectives and even a ground-breaking solution. It also helps to increase employee engagement, which is essential to the implementation of the model.

Key take-aways

The Daily Innovation Model is not about solving the littering problem per se. It is about getting employees used to the idea of generating ideas and solutions in small, incremental ways. They learn to look at problems through the lens of a collaborative platform, where ideas are nurtured and built upon.

The next step is to get them used to applying these principles in their day to day interactions as well. The hope is that this attitude will gradually help build a corporate culture where ideas are contributed and problems solved in non-siloed, open, collaborative – and may I add – fun ways. That can only lead to more incremental product and process innovations and, gives a company the best shot at discovering a game changing product or service. And even if that does not happen, daily innovation ensures that the company keeps improving products and processes in small, incremental ways and moves forward with the changing times. And as we all are aware, change is the name of the game.

Check out also my presentation from KLIC conference 2016 dealing with the Daily Innovation Model.

FROM THE START:
“Innovation is not for us”, they say

By Rumman Ahmad. An MSc in Creativity and Change Leadership from Buffalo State University, Rumman trains, teaches and facilitates groups of people to learn and apply the creative process to solve problems, energizing and motivating them to do their best. He is also the organizer of an annual conference on innovation in Pakistan. An Exago partner since 2016 in this key geography, Rumman has developed a Model for Daily Innovation which can be complemented by Exago’s innovation management software.

Set the timing right for your innovation challenges

Now that you have identified your key innovation challenges and built them properly, remember to set the timings. Not only does the commitment to a deadline make participants focus, but this also helps you when defining goals with realistic deadlines.

Still, this does not mean one-time, finite initiatives or efforts. As one of our client says, ‘Innovation requires a lot of work, not only to describe ideas well but also to develop them.’ This is true from ideation through to collaborative idea improvement and implementation. For optimal results, you also have to roll-out an appropriate, ongoing communication plan, as described before, establishing medium- to long-term commitment to the project and implementing top ideas as you move forward.

Each cycle end further gives you the time you need to concentrate on implementation, evaluate the initiative, make improvement, tweak ideas and prepare to launch the next cycle of challenges.

THESE ACTIVATION QUESTIONS CAN HELP YOU:
  • How much time do we need to address this challenge?
  • Is a solution reachable within a two to three-month challenge? Or should we break down the challenge further?

Diana Neves de Carvalho, Exago’s CEO/ dnc@exago.com
Francisco Bernardes, Exago’s head of Innovation Services/ fmb@exago.com

READ MORE:
Five key dimensions for building your innovation challenges

FROM THE START:
Your ultimate innovation challenge – what works and what doesn’t