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

Are you building your innovation challenges right?

Having identified your key innovation challenges – aligned with your company’s higher purpose and strategic goals and made attainable, useful and targeted – it’s time to focus on describing them plainly and completely, to guarantee you’ll get meaningful content:

  • Make your innovation challenges as specific as you can: Break down the challenge’s macro theme into smaller challenges. We’ve learned that the narrower the scope of the challenge, the more imaginative the audience becomes, thus the more meaningful the ideas you’ll secure.
  • Clearly state and justify the need for a solution: Explain why exactly we can all benefit from this challenge.
  • Contextualise the problem and share the findings: Try to understand what has been done within that precise topic in the past, by your company and other competitors. Background checking can recall opportunities, dismiss dead ends and provide key ways to explain the innovation challenge in more detail to participants.
  • Promote ideation with related insights: These last are very useful tools to share the learning process and background details with participants.
  • Make sure also to respect grammar and orthography and send out clear messages:
    • Communications of challenges must use correct syntactic structures and clear sentences.
    • Vocabulary has to be familiar to participants. Business or technical jargon may seem obvious to you. Don’t assume it is to others.
    • Direct questions are a good option, when used in a positive way. This is true even for more driven exploration challenges.

If people do not understand the challenges they face, how can you expect them to participate? Unclear language will also compromise your audience’s future participation.

Here’s a client insight on the subject:

‘It’s very important to add insights and share them in ways we know will mean employees will check these insights.

Usually, our insights include descriptive information provided by the area that manages the subject, including some statistical data. We want to make sure our teams understand the challenges, particularly when these are more complex, and avoid the submission of ideas that we have already implemented or discussed.

Imagine the challenge “How to encourage SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] to set up online stores?”: In this case, we would present statistical information on SMEs in our country, explaining how many there are, what their types are and so on, so that employees understand the target better. Also, we would mention our company’s current offer for these customers, changes and improvements that have already been planned and possible tempting proposals that have been analysed but are not yet in the market (i.e. trying to ward off those apparently obvious ideas).’

Finally, try these activation questions:

  • Am I saying clearly how we can all benefit from this challenge?
  • Is this really one or more challenges? If so, which ones?
  • Are we asking the right questions?
  • What other approaches were attempted in the past?
  • Are we providing enough insights to power ideation?

 

READ MORE:
Set the timing right for your innovation challenges

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

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

Our Innovation Gurus are the best

Fleury Group, Altice Portugal and Liberty Seguros have been awarded the 2016 Exago Innovation Gurus Awards for their innovation, resilience and creativity. The winning teams of the initiative’s first edition have received and celebrated their trophies. Cheers to all winners!

THE RESILIENCE TO INNOVATE
Portugal Telecom is Exago’s 2016 Innovation Farmer. With a structured innovation programme that’s been evolving for almost a decade now, PT developed over 20 related communication initiatives in 2016, using both internal and external media, as well as offline communication, to involve the entire organisation.

According to Dalila Martins, Head of Organisational Communication at Altice Portugal, “Innovation is a strategic pillar stone at PT and the OPEN programme makes it clear that, in our company, this is a process everyone can and must participate in. Launched in 2009, the programme has allowed us to spread a culture of innovation within the organisation, with important contributions to work processes’ improvement, new product development and customer relationships”. Dalila adds that “Exago has proved itself an excellence partner in this challenge, since moment one. Idea Market, Exago’s platform, is an indispensable tool in harnessing and implementing the ideas suggested by our employees to answer to our shared innovation challenges.”

To acknowledge this commitment to sustainable innovation, Exago has planted 100 trees in the name of Portugal Telecom via the Canopy Project – an initiative that strengthens communities worldwide through tree planting.

HUNTING FOR BEST PRACTICES IN INNOVATION
Liberty Seguros is our 2016 Innovation Hunter for its pledge to include all business units in the quest for new creative solutions – leading internal teams towards more innovative paths, with joint initiatives, strong leadership support and efficient and original incentives.

Rui Barata, Head of Planning and Management Information Systems, explains that “Liberty has believed in this project since the beginning and in its potential to value each employee’s ideas. We are learning together that ideas, innovation and gamification are three pillars that walk side by side and definitely work well. The process of idea transformation is happening at Liberty right now, becoming part of people’s mindset and our company’s DNA”.

Liberty’s innovation team was challenged – and scored highly – in an Escape Game challenge, further boosting its creativity and curiosity.

KEEPING THE FOCUS ON RESULTS

Last but not least, Innovation Bookkeeper 2016 was awarded to Fleury Group. Fleury demonstrated consistent focus in results measurement, achieving a remarkable return on investment of its innovation initiative. Over 90 implemented ideas directly contributed to an estimated 400% ROI. The group will receive a free Exago Innovation Service, during an ideation cycle, to explore more and new ways to optimise its results.

Amanda Ferri Curti, in charge of Strategy, Innovation and New Business at Fleury, recalls that “Group Fleury’s idea generation programme is reaching 10 years of experience in 2017, six of which counting with Exago to help us promote a culture of innovation within the organisation and capture employees’ and suppliers’ ideas for incremental innovations and opportunities to improve our processes. Throughout this period, we have gathered and assessed over 20 thousand ideas with a financial return on investment of over 2 million euros”, she says.

Exago’s Innovation Gurus Awards aim to thank and recognise clients for their focus and commitment to innovation. In addition, they allow us to celebrate the power of our idea management software in bringing people together to innovate and help organisations evolve.