Friday, June 15, 2012

Innovation - Organization and Human Resources

Traditionally, organizations designed their training and transfer of knowledge to their employees on an as-needed basis, or what management thought was needed for their employees.  This type of system has become to be known as a 'push' system, directions coming from the top-down.  As organizations are experiencing globalization, more complex working environments with an ever-expanding resource of information, they are being forced to adjust to what is termed a 'pull' system (Hagel III, Brown, & Davison, 2010), representing a flatter organizational hierarchical structure.  

This age of complexity has also been referred to as the knowledge economy (macro), or the knowledge organization (micro) as termed by Drucker (2007). This knowledge organization is designed to focus more on contribution rather than on power, is structured according to the flow of information, and is multidimensional - breaking traditional organizational silos (Drucker, 2007). 

With a flatter organizational hierarchy structure the organization fosters innovation from both top-down and bottom-up communications.  To better foster innovation from the bottom-up communication chain McFadzean (1999) recommended the following to motivate employees to think creatively:
  1. Motivate employees: reward employees for good practice.
  2. Motivate think: give employees time to think about their own pet projects.
  3. Motivate creative: train employees in how to think more creatively.
  4. Employees creative: encourage the use of creative problem-solving techniques during meetings.

When conducting team and/or collaborative activities for innovation, Hunter et al. (as cited in McFadzean, 1999) offered the following guidelines:
  1. Get to know the other people.
  2. Be clear about the group purpose, values, ground rules and practices.
  3. Contribute to discussions, group decision making and task allocation.
  4. Share thoughts, ideas, feelings and concerns.
  5. Listen generously to other people.
  6. Speak concisely and to the point.
  7. Maintain focus and ensure that the process will lead to the fulfillment of the meeting's goals.
  8. Be proactive. Make suggestions, propose alternatives, look at what's missing in the discussion and add it.
  9. Be flexible. Avoid taking a fixed position. 
  10. Ensure that you understand the conversation that you are contributing to.
  11. Do not avoid conflict. Disagreement and conflict are an important part of the development of the group.
  12. Keep to the ground rules and encourage others to keep to them as well.
  13. Fulfill the commitments that have been promised in the appropriate time frame.

Encouraging and fostering ideas from employees will be required more as the organizational hierarchy changes from a top-down structure to a more bottom-up structure.  Drucker (2007) described that innovation needs to come from "the places that control the human resources and the money… from the existing large aggregate of trained people and disposable money" (p. 152).  The guidelines presented above will assist with the human resources portion of innovation.  Innovation is an organization function, consisting of all employees, stakeholders, and shareholders. "The innovative organization manages to innovate as an organization, that is, as a human group organized for continual and productive innovation (Drucker, 2007, p. 154).


Drucker, P. F. (2007). People and Performance: The Best of Peter Drucker on Management. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Hagel III, J., Brown, J. S., & Davison, L. (2010). The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion. New York, NY: Basic Books.

McFadzean, E. (1991). Encouraging creative thinking. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 20(7), 374-383. Retrieved from Emerald. 

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