| || ||Melissa Lalonde |
Special Events Officer
Industry and Business Strategy
We have an innovation challenge in Canada. As a nation, we are considered risk adverse—which can be problematic since risk-taking is fundamental for innovation. Business leaders have a role to play in driving innovation within their organizations. Employers need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their employees in order to collaborate and innovate effectively. The Conference Board of Canada’s Business Council for Sustainability (BCS) fall meeting focused on sustainability as a driver of innovation.
The meeting featured a workshop led by Janice Francisco, president of BridgePoint Effect, which focused on demystifying innovation and learning strategies to help people engage in what she calls “the universal innovation process.” Members completed the FourSight Thinking Profile, which allowed them to see where they could leverage greater awareness about innovation processes to make innovation practical and achievable in their organizations.
According to Francisco, employees are tasked with “innovation,” but do not know what it looks like or how to make it practical. Innovation is only possible under two conditions: organizations must be able to adapt to change, and employees must have the skills to generate new ways of thinking. The way that people think significantly impacts the way innovation is created and led within organizations. As such, it is necessary for employers and employees to understand their skills and how they fit within their team and the organization as a whole.
In order for organizations to be successful, innovation needs to be embedded as a core function in the work they produce. Innovation cannot be delegated—leaders must learn and work alongside their employees. Leaders need to trust that their employees can be creative without affecting their brand’s image, and space must be created for innovative thinking and failure. Engagement scores tend to improve as employees become more innovative and better understand the role of their manager. It is also essential that employers and employees follow an innovative process, since workers who are aware of both the innovative process and their preference in terms of that process tend to achieve stronger results.
Francisco recommends a three-step approach to the innovative process: shift your thinking paradigm; discover your thinking profile; and take a deliberate approach to innovation. In order to solve problems creatively, innovation must be structural and language-based, and organizations should aim to follow these steps:
- Clarify the challenge—spend time assessing the situation; determine who is involved, understand the problem, reframe, and ask the right questions.
- Generate ideas—brainstorm and create a large quantity of ideas, fuse old ideas together, and break others apart.
- Develop solutions—focus on ideas and ways to implement them. Take strong ideas and refine them to create something that reflects the organization, the environment, and stakeholders.
- Take action—implement the ideas to complete the task. This is a learning process that requires testing ideas to ensure that problems are solved in the most effective way.
Through the FourSight assessment, employees are able to decide which steps of the innovation process they prefer and which they would like to avoid. Becoming aware of employees’ preferences can help organizations leverage style differences, build better teams, short circuit conflict, improve performance, and become creative powerhouses. In order to build high-performing teams in the workplace, ability should be the primary factor, followed by talent diversity. FourSight has created four preferences in the innovation process (clarifiers, ideators, developers, and implementers) that they hold should make up each team in order to better manage the full spectrum of the innovation process. These profiles combined provide a balance of perspectives that lend themselves well to a variety of team activities.
The Business Council for Sustainability convened at the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. Members heard from UBC’s top sustainability experts and learned about innovative research, training, and engagement techniques around climate change and energy being conducted at UBC. Moreover, members participated in a practical demonstration of innovation in a research environment, and heard from Ashley Good on how to fail intelligently and create space for learning and innovation. An industry panel featuring the Co-operators and Vancity Community Foundation outlined the various stages of impact investing and how innovation can be used to invest sustainably. The next BCS meeting will take place in Toronto on March 21, 2016.
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