How innovation can help you conquer the new generations

A Gallup report shows that US companies lose $350 billion in revenue every year due to employees’ disengagement. In fact, 70 per cent of your employees are probably disengaged. Yet full participation is an emotional commitment that cannot be forced.

With the Millennials and Generation Z joining the workplace, the challenge rises: no longer can we believe that it is enough for a company to provide the work, and that an employee’s motivation will come naturally.

What is more, data shows that employees want to be more innovative at work and want to take more responsibility. This tells us that fostering creative environments and innovation initiatives will also nurture motivation, engagement and, therefore, productivity.

Three perspectives on the value of making companies more inclusive and collaborative

Innovation can be defined as the development of customer value through solutions that meet new, undefined, or existing market needs in unique ways. Solutions may include new or more effective products, processes, services,  technologies, or ideas that are more readily available to markets, governments and society.

The development of a corporate culture where innovation is incentivised and becomes the way of doing business can bring companies several advantages, according to different points of view:

  • From an organisational perspective, managers encourage innovation because of the value it can capture. Innovative employees increase productivity by creating and executing new processes, which in turn may strengthen competitive advantages and provide meaningful differentiation. Innovative organisations are inherently more adaptable to the external environment; this allows them to react faster and more effectively to avoid risk and capture opportunities.
  • From a managerial perspective, innovative employees tend naturally to be more motivated and involved in the organisation. Empowering employees to innovate and improve their work processes provides a sense of autonomy that boosts job satisfaction.
  • From a broader perspective, empowering employees to engage in broader organisation-wide innovation creates a strong sense of teamwork and community and ensures that employees are actively aware of and invest in organisational objectives and strategy.

In this sense, managers who promote an innovative environment can see value through increased employee motivation, creativity, and autonomy; stronger teams; and strategic recommendations from the bottom up.

READ MORE:
How to create a culture of collaborative innovation in younger 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

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

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

First, ask what your innovation purpose is

Nike’s goal is ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world’. Starbuck’s motto is ‘to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time’. What is your company’s mission? And how does your initiative take part in carrying it out?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to purpose. When launching your innovation initiative, you must first clearly identify what is your higher strategic purpose – the one that will bind together your leadership, management and employees.

From our experience, getting key players inside your organisation aligned is hard, requiring diplomatic and pragmatic skills. When launching your innovation effort, you must also find a way to communicate that the initiative is bigger than just a simple project with a set of processes and tools. Individual employees need a meaningful purpose to motivate them to dedicate their free time to activities that are not part of their official job description.

You thus need to follow up on, and build on, your organisation’s mission. Define a purpose for your innovation effort and identify ‘the jobs-to-be-done’ through innovation. Show your team that this is an opportunity to shape the company’s future, to out-differentiate the competition.

Whether you seek to apply innovation management to meeting very explicit business challenges or to creating a company-wide culture and capabilities, ask yourself, ‘What do we want to change?’ Understanding your ambitions helps you define a migration path, set your expectations, get the challenges right and allocate resources more rationally.

Your challenges thus have to be aligned with your company’s higher purpose and the strategic objectives you set. You should also define clearly what you want to accomplish and why, as well as the specific needs your chosen challenges address.

Try these ativation questions:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • What do we want to change in our organisation?
  • What are our organisation’s specific needs that are addressed by this challenge, and how can people relate to them? (Focus on the problem, on defining its scope instead of jumping to a solution.)
  • What is the desired outcome? (Understand the perspectives of customers, stakeholders and other beneficiaries. This should be addressed qualitatively and quantitatively whenever possible.)
  • How does this connect with our company’s mission? And with more strategic goals?

We will next see the importance of picking useful and feasible fights, when launching your innovation challenges.

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

READ MORE:
How to pick useful and feasible ‘fights’ for innovation challenges

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