Algebra Talks: Leading innovation in the workplace

Eight edition of Algebra Talks has welcomed Ph. D. Bruce Watley, a lecturer at our e-Leadership MBA and an assistant professor at the University of Sioux Falls, USA. We had a chance to participate in the interesting lecture about innovations in the workplace and leadership roles in the companies.

Prior to working at the University of Sioux Falls, Ph. D. Watley spent almost 20 years in the consumer products industry where he owned multiple manufacturing companies that produced both hard and soft goods…taking almost bankrupt firms and turning them into industry leaders in a relatively short period of time by focusing on product and service innovations.

Innovation is one of the least understood aspects of human behavior at work but yet it is vital to sustain the organizational growth.

Creativity vs. Innovation

Skimming through a discussion about what constitutes creativity in the field of business and everyday work, we may or may not agree that everybody is creative. Also, many claim everyone has the ability to learn creativity but if you look at any group of leaders, only a few people generate unique ideas and produce more work that is original. Finally, a trend in creativity research is not to uncover who has it, as much as it is to define the person’s style of performing different tasks or managing things and leading people.

Bruce said that when talking about innovation, people often tend to think innovation needs to be something new, disruptive and not seen before in order to be seen as innovative. But, when we consider our working environment, innovation is present in many aspects. It can be either the employee who came up with an idea of a new product, new problem-solving method, new market possibility, or it can be the implementation of a new software that already exists in the market but the company hasn’t been using it before.

Innovators and Adaptors

Innovators spend time experimenting with ideas that are not directly related to increased profits. They openly question business as it is. If you go beyond the scope of your work or your manager asks you to explain what is the added value in doing what you intended when you share a new idea, you are probably an innovator.

If your ideas are usually accepted and equivalent to you on the business organization chart, then you are probably an adaptor. You tend to take proven products and theories and try to incorporate them into your business. You are better at selling someone else’s idea than coming up with your own. This ability to encourage others to accept new modifications is essential to keep business growing.

In a recent research study, 70% of executives believed a person’s ability to innovate significantly contributed to organizational growth, however, 65% of these same individuals had very little confidence in their own abilities to stimulate innovation within an organization.

Adaptors tend to accept the norms and rules and give their best in completing the given tasks, always staying inside the box of rules. Innovators feel uncomfortable being given too many instructions, boundaries, directions, and rules. They understand the box but they rather try to think about the ways of doing thing using methods and ways that are not inside the box.

Adaptors should accept the fact that innovators may not be maladroit or not have the same social and presentation skills as them. They probably will not share same thoughts, opinions or ideas a may even not get along so well. However, you need both of them. Innovators because adaptors may not have a creative break-through idea, and adaptors because someone can launch the idea but you still need people who will take care that the work actually gets done.