Hacking HR to Build an Adaptability Advantage

gemma-reucroft's picture

Caught in a trap.

By Gemma Reucroft on May 13, 2022

If you don't tell people they can make suggestions, changes, innovate, then they won't.  They will just do what they have always done and wait for someone else to come along and take the lead.  People need to given permission to adapt and then learn that they won't get a kicking for it. 

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I wonder also if there needs to be thoughtful invitations to participate- not just letting people know that participation is possible.

One of the things I have done is design large group conversations around an identified need and purpose. One time I was invited by a leader to design and facilitate a sessions that would engage staff with new strategic plans. With a small leadership group we created- thoughtfully crafted, an invitation, and looked at who needed to be in the room, and invited them. We had senior sponsorship and a commitment to work with all recommendations. The people set up workgroups, working on topics of their choice, within the parameters set by the inviting group, and stepped up to engage with the new directions and plans. It was a significant meeting.

I think people want to engage however they are often not invited, and when they are, the planners have not been clear in their purpose and what people really can contribute to, and then there's poor feedback about the results. That causes cynicism and the lack of trust spoken about in other contributions.


perry-timms_1's picture

Gemma - you are so right about the permission aspect and to some, written in their role profiles! Thou shalt innovate. Keith calls out a good one on "tell".

I guess for me it is their inner chatter which says "because no-one has said I can (and it may feel a little risky), I'd best not" OR not even considering it a part of their role - someone else's responsibility. A bit of "knowing / doing gap" might even be at play here. I know I should do more to help my team member, but their colleague and their best will probably do that".

Front lines in many places are hotbeds of innovation incidents where people solve problems creatively that, if replicated, could result in higher levels of success through process or behavioural improvements.

Despite many organisations' best attempts, it often gets lost in the ether. The simple bowl of water outside the main entrance for dogs at Moto service stations springs to mind. A simple idea, made happen which meant a lot to patrons with pets and could mean the difference between a patron stopping there versus another service station. And stopping there meant food and drink purchases etc.

I gained SOME success in the past with staff innovation when I was part of a team that wikified staff suggestions. Ideas were posted, validated or dropped by peers and if validated and refined, adopted corporately. Most systems for capturing innovation are clunky, bureaucracys - the very contra of innovative and stifle or dissuade many from sharing their ideas.

Anyway the point is well made. Let people know they can innovate; be part of change for the better; and encourage them through open comms.

Cheers for the thoughts both.


keith-gulliver's picture

Hi Gemma - re this point ==> "If you don't tell people they can make suggestions, changes, innovate, then they won't".

Personally, I think it's a bit more than 'telling people' although I agree leaders communicating effectively the parameters people should operate in and then letting them get on with it is positive.

I think it also involves things like: encouraging, rewarding, recognizing, doing (i.e. setting an example), believing, trusting and so on (I'm sure there are others). Those things in combination will give people the 'permission' they need.