How can you drive innovation in your business?

by | Dec 8, 2023

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How can you drive innovation in your business?

How can an organisation drive innovation? What are the successful components of an innovative organisation? These are just a few questions we debated on a recent HR on the Offensive podcast with Chris Howard and Ed Sparkes from our team.
In 2023, one of the regularly featured discussion topics across media and in business has been finding ways to deliver more from workforces. We featured a number of different articles and podcasts earlier this year focused on workforce productivity, challenging businesses to think differently about how they drive productivity.

One of the key facets of delivering greater productivity is through increased engagement of your people; if your people are more engaged through the experiences they have at work, you will naturally drive greater productivity across your workforce. That’s why towards the back end of this year we have also focused our latest campaign on employee experience; organisations that can recognise the link between experience and productivity are those that are delivering a revolution within their businesses, but a natural by-product of increased productivity through positive experiences is also innovation.

But how do you define what is innovative? Can it be quantified? And if you are trying to build greater innovation within your business, what are the successful components?
We wanted to provide some practical advice from a LACE perspective and a few months back we released a podcast featuring Ed from our Change team; Ed discussed with Chris about how we drive innovation at LACE. Of course, every organisation is different and some of the approaches we have at LACE may not always be feasible, but for today’s blog we thought we’d provide an insight into our approach in the hope that it can itself provide some food for thought on how you can drive innovation in your business.


How can you spark creativity and imagination within your business?

Innovation is one of the most over-used terms in business. It is described everywhere, businesses talk about how they innovate, it is in presentations and pitch decks the world over. But what is it, really?

It’s a concept. It is about finding new things to do or doing old things in new ways. It is about thinking differently, but innovation in itself means different things to different people. For some it is about being mavericks, doing something completely different, but for others innovation could be about how you can deliver the same message in a different way that keeps people constantly engaged and motivated. In the podcast, we used a sporting analogy of a coach having to drill a consistent message to his team; the message needs to be consistent but the way it is delivered needs to innovate. So the first piece of advice we’d encourage any organisation to think of is to define what you mean by your version of innovation. What does innovation mean to you and what do you want to achieve with your approach to innovation? That will enable you to start to map out how you can drive innovation in your organisation.

Innovation is not the sole preserve of one department, one person, a certain level of experience. It is built across a business, embedded in the fabric of a culture and organisations that engage in effective employee listening techniques are those that benefit from the highest level of innovation within their businesses.


Innovation at LACE

How is innovation integrated at LACE? Innovation is one of our core values and part of our culture, and to foster innovation LACE has come up with an internal programme that we call Ignite. The reason we have the Ignite programme is firstly to make sure that our people are using innovation developing techniques, secondly to hear all voices in the organisation, whether junior or senior, front-facing or back-office, and finally, to build out our offerings and potentially identifying and developing the next big thing. The programme is structured in two themes: Topics and techniques.

Topics are either chosen via a suggestion box gathering opinions from all employees or put forward by leadership. Our topics are based on the latest HR Trends or important themes in the HR world. The first thing we do with our topics is thought-leadership. Everyone involved does some research around the topic and gets up to speed. From there, we get a couple of principles in the ground and develop the LACE stance and then we develop a series of solutions. We source ideas whether that is for the whole organisation or just for the HR function or whether it’s for ourselves internally.
Once we have gathered ideas, we condense them down to the most relevant idea with the most potential. Here, we ask junior people to speak up to get their views on things. We choose a practical solution that works for us and put it into practice. Our most recent topic was AI and we have invested in one LACEr, who was particularly passionate about the topic to become the AI Expert at LACE through an AI training course.

Secondly, we are talking about innovation techniques. This is about the techniques we use to come up with ideas and solutions. We would really like to embed that ideation and facilitate innovation techniques in all our people. It could be activities like ‘1-2-4-All’, where someone takes an idea as an individual then shares it as a pair, then in a group of four and then with everybody or a round-robin format; one person starts an idea and then hands it over to a new person to flesh it out, who will hand it over to someone else to flesh it out further. We try to embed these classic innovative facilitation techniques in everything we do so that we can also use them with clients and in workshops.


Getting everyone involved

At LACE we get everyone involved in innovation and that is how it should be! When looking at innovative ideas, we are looking at new thinking and new ways of doing things. These ideas can’t come from people that all think the same way. We can’t only include senior leadership but need to push junior people to the front and hear their opinions. We need to include every opinion and make every voice heard to really get the best outcome for us, for our clients and to be truly innovative.


The components of successful innovation

There are a couple of components to make innovation successful. The first is the psychological safety aspect of feeling free to speak out and to make suggestions. And the second, which is just as critical is the ownership and sponsorship by leadership. Companies need to create a real space for innovation and allow employees to speak up and speak their mind. This could also be constructive criticism on current ways of working, followed by innovative solutions, but the support must be there. Leadership needs to take the commitment to innovation seriously and invest in innovation, its employees, and the future to make it work.

As mentioned right at the top of the blog today, this is just an example of some of the work we’ve done at LACE to drive innovation. If you’d like to talk to us about our programmes a little more and how they could potentially be applied in your business, please feel free to reach out to us.