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  • Colin Duff

Why HR leaders need to define 'Innovation' at their organisation

Updated: Jun 2

When I discuss innovation with HR leaders, I’m often struck by the narrowness of their interpretation. Typically, they mention creativity and technology. Whilst these are both important components, innovation is much broader. It also encompasses, for example, business models, process, partnerships and customer experience. Each company’s strategy determines the innovation mix and there are wide variances between organisations.

Considering all the relevant facets is critical in order to determine where to focus L&D resources on. But as HR leaders are often stretched, and as innovation straddles many functions, it's unrealistic for them to have an in-depth understanding of these.


I've discovered a quick and powerful hack to get around this; to get HR leaders to define innovation in the context of their own organisation. Doing so provides clarity on requirements, ensures they are focused on the right outcomes and builds alignment among wider stakeholders. (It also shows that HR really understands innovation).


To overcome blank page syndrome, I provide them with the definition we use at the Mosaic Innovation as stimulus. Everyone I showed this to has found it easy to iterate and add in the nuances of their organisation:



For example, a leader at a large retailer said that executives were frustrated their requests for innovation were being met with small, tokenistic projects, or internally-focused initiatives. So we adapted the innovation definition for their organisation; we made it explicit that innovation, to them, meant new, breakthrough (to industry) customer-facing initiatives.


The clarity this new definition provided was instrumental in selecting and securing alignment for a series of new training modules. For example, instead of offering the intended courses on Design Thinking (the most popular methodology for general innovation), they opted to go with the Ten Types of Innovation and Blue Ocean Strategy. Both of these latter methodologies are specifically geared towards fuelling breakthrough innovations.


How do you define what innovation means to your organisation?


If you’re struggling, get in touch and we’d be happy to help.

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