What does innovation mean in the workplace

Time for your own ideas - innovation concepts for more productivity

#tgif # WochenendehochdieHehand… Friday is the little man's holiday, you might think if you take a look at the most popular hashtags on social media towards the end of the week. But why do the majority of employees celebrate the end of a working week as if their job were a permanent fixture in limbo?

In many office professions, everyday work looks more or less the same every day: work off tasks that come from above, a meeting every now and then, and when projects are finished, the next one is already waiting. Unfortunately, in many companies, anyone who creates space for creative work outside of their lunch break or coffee gossip is often considered lazy.

Highly motivated, creative and innovative employeesthat uncover blind spots, bring a breath of fresh air to encrusted structures and solve problems - that is what most employers still want. Many even hire their own “innovation managers” for this. But why not just turn existing employees into innovation drivers and make them even happier on top of that?

More freedom and personal responsibility

The future of work with its innovations such as digitization, automation and globalization also calls for the following: More freedom for the individual employees. Why? Because hierarchical structures do not exist in modern working environments and interdisciplinary networking and teleworking (increasingly virtual) demand precisely these. Goes along with it a lot of trust on the employer side - but also a large portion of employee satisfaction in a successful scenario.

How does innovation work? 2 fundamental errors

Innovation and further development in companies includes a vision for innovation strategies, processes for idea development, selection and implementation, but also the company culture and resources as well as the working hours of employees and their appreciation. How innovation management is implemented in companies can look very different and diverge depending on the size: A small, agile startup sets different standards here than a corporation, which also usually has a different error culture. However, all companies should be aware of one thing: a culture of innovation is a culture of mistakes. No new ideas without that Concession to idling, failures and "wasted time".

Innovation culture is error culture!

Believing that all ideas can only come from the management team is that second cardinal error. If you leave it to the boss alone to spin ideas and drive them forward, you miss a lot of unused opportunities: In today's volatile world of work, there are only a few all-round talents who have an all-round mastery of their craft - there are too many specialist areas, they change too quickly Conditions and lifelong learning are the basic requirements anyway.

And: employees want to be heard. Many operational blindnesses and "problems" arise where managers have a blind spot. And what has always been that way: Many eyes see more. Everyone has different approaches, experiences and talents. If employees are conveyed “we want to hear your opinion, you can make a difference!” That can change something very fundamental: the Work motivation and the satisfaction.

HiPPO = Highest Paid Person's Opinion - when the boss announces and everyone else brushes their ideas under the table.

Models like HiPPO, which suppress other opinions outside of the management floor, should have had their day anyway. But how do you get away from “working according to the rules” towards a creative and innovative work culture?

“The smartest Unternehmen don't tell their employees how to innovate, they manage the chaos. ”- Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder LinkedIn and Podcast Host "Masters of Scale"

It's not just about innovation, it's also about working together, getting to know colleagues better and having a little fun many things are mutually dependent here. You can achieve that through Freedom, time for your own ideas and said trust. As we know from innovation research, it is incredibly good for our ingenuity to move away from the everyday routine and towards something completely new and unknown. Then all of a sudden, ideas bubble up about problems that we previously had a tough time with.

Apple or LinkedIn employees may, for example, have such freedom. The Upper Austrian company Runtastic gives its employees the DONI (Days of new ideas) Time once a quarter to tackle projects that are not necessarily related to everyday work. And Google owes some of its best products to an innovation concept:

Time for your own ideas on Google

Is about New workConcepts, the name Google is probably one of the first to come up with it. Whether it's the model office of the future (with a slide!) Or innovative ways of working - Google has always been different. Why? Because they understood that it takes otherness to be innovative and faster than everyone else. One of the best known innovation concepts is their "20% time" concept.

Spend 20 percent of your working time doing things you like. Good or not?!

Introduced by the founders in 2004, they wanted to encourage employees to spend 20 percent of their time (a whole day of the week!) On top of their regular projects doing things without pressure from above that they think could be good for Google. Google Maps, Gmail or AdSense - all of these are products that were created in this context and now make up a large part of our success. And only because an employee had a small idea and had space to implement it.

What also belongs to it: Many of these projects fail or never make a breakthrough (e.g. Google+, Google Wave, Google Lively etc.). But some are being completed and have achieved results. And a few just become real Cash cows. Although recent surveys have shown that only about every tenth Google employee uses “20% time”, the concept itself is not banned because it is about the idea behind it. The already mentioned burden of a corporation also hit Google at some point: With increasing growth and probably also increasing pressure on the productivity of the teams, this model was weakened or there was no longer a desire to approve and pursue many small projects, but only large ones that were worth pursuing.

The challenge: If employees are challenged in their day-to-day work so that time for their own ideas is turned into overtime, there is no longer a win-win situation. Often not even a win-situation for one side. Ultimately, the decisive factor is a reflective handling and constant (joint) evaluation of such concepts. More on that in a moment.

Innovation concepts: Concrete examples from everyday work at karriere.at

Innovation concepts are wonderful. As already mentioned, there are still a few mistakes to avoid so that employers and employees can really benefit from them.

Some time ago we introduced the “Chapter Day” at karriere.at - an innovation model with moderate success. Why? Because the rules were not clearly defined, the ideas that were bubbling at the beginning lay around too long and the motivation to implement them dwindled at some point. Our conclusion: Innovation models need clearer information regulate (a supposed contrast to free space just seems contradictory ...) and should by no means be rigid. As noted in the above example from Google, these should develop (further) with companies.

There are now two different “learning concepts” at karriere.at.

1. NarF - "Not a regular Friday"

Many always work with a view of Friday - after all, the weekend is finally coming up. The developers at karriere.at are especially looking forward to Friday, because then the NarF, "Not a regular Friday", is coming up. Every 2 weeks on Friday they concentrate on topics, ideas or concepts that come up short during everyday work. There is also space for your own further training or mutual coaching.

The karriere.at developers are working on it Scrum - a model of project and product management, which is mainly used for agile software development. You work your way from ticket to ticket, so there is usually little time left for innovations.

There were quite a few at the beginning of NarF Skeptics (which was also due to the less good end of the aforementioned “Chapter Day”). After more than a year of NarF we can draw an absolutely positive balance: As before, many use the “free working time” to Neglected things, heart projects or everyday problems to tackle. The advantages for the development team and all of karriere.at have already become visible:

They can be everyday problems that can finally be dealt with. Back-end developer Johannes, for example, was annoyed that the availability of meeting rooms at karriere.at could only be viewed via Outlook. That's why he sat down at a NarF and programmed a calendar app for a tablet that tells you as you walk past whether the room is booked or free.

Lecture at a dev conference - prepared at NarF

Many articles for the in-house dev blog were created at a NarF, presentations and lectures for talks or teaching at universities, where some of our developers teach on the side. Employees receive further training and use the time at NarF to read up on unknown territory, take on new tasks and develop internally.

You can get more insights into the way our devs work here: https://devland.at/a/narf-and-what-it-is

What made NarF so successful in the long term, in contrast to “Chapter Day”? Concrete rules that are short and crisp, but make the floor plans clear for everyone:

NarF rules:

Rule # 1: No tickets! To avoid barriers, there are no classic tickets in a project management tool, but a simple text document: a title and a short description are sufficient, everyone has access to the document and, if interested, can inquire and collaborate with the idea generator.

Rule # 2: NarF is completely voluntary! Those who do not want to take part do not have to take part and can spend a completely normal working day.

Rule # 3: Show what you did! Everything that comes out of the NarF is shown to the entire development team.

Because the NarF was so well received and we found that not only our development team should benefit from such an idea-promoting concept, we have also introduced an interdisciplinary innovation model: GTI, "Getting Things Innovated":

2. GTI - "Getting Things Innovated"

This is not about cars and Lake Wörthersee, but rather about productivity. The name is inspired by David Allen's bestseller in self-management literature "Getting Things Done - the art of stress-free productivity".

We have taken this standard work as a model at karriere.at: GTI is one at karriere.at Community of Practice, in which ideas are developed and (further) processed in order to improve karriere.at. The GTI Thursday: Every 2 weeks on Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. you can work on GTI topics on one floor of karriere.at. So we rely on the Crowd intelligence and mutual motivation of sales, customer care, marketing ... simply all departments of karriere.at.

GTI meeting

What are GTI topics?

Each employee can contribute their own topic and / or volunteer to work on existing topics. In theory, this can start with “fruit baskets on every floor” and go to “dogs at karriere.at”, but also deal with topics such as better visibility of project results:

  • Process improvements (process technology, tools, ...)
  • Things that save time or money (and time is money as we all know)
  • New technologies (tools / software programming languages, ...)
  • Reducing the company's ecological footprint
  • Improvement of the external impact (open source contributions, dev blog articles, ...)
  • Continuing education (specialist books, tutorials, videos, workshops, dev-café talks)
  • Etc.

Non-topics: individual problems that can be solved directly with your own manager or are part of day-to-day business. The members of the so-called steering committee are available for organizational and content-related questions. The outcome should always be the following: the added value for karriere.at and of course all employees.

Innovation concepts in practice - learnings

Our working world is changing and faster than ever before. Concepts that are modern and based on New Work listening to it unquestioningly implementing it is not a panacea. Depending on the industry and work structure, different models can lead to quite divergent results. Trial & Error is in demand here and openness for a healthy error culture is essential in order to be able to benefit from it in the long term. What we have learned in our practice: A lot of freedom requires a lot of trust, but also concrete rules!

Photo credit: Shutterstock; karriere.at