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16 July 2020

CITF: how to drive innovation in uncertain times

This year we’re proud to sponsor the ‘Innovation’ category at the CITF Real IT Awards. As part of the festivities, Team Sequel’s Charles Fenoughty and Becky Leonard had the opportunity to speak about how communication can support innovation – even in times of uncertainty. Here’s a sneak peek at our session…

The connection between communication and innovation – what is it exactly? Well, we think this quote from knowledge experts Davenport and Prusak sums it up best. The best way to get people sharing knowledge and fuelling innovation: “hire smart people and let them talk to one another.”

Sounds simple enough, right? When, in fact, creating the right environment for innovation at your organisation requires a delicate balance. A balance between creating the right culture to encourage innovative thinking and idea sharing, and providing the right opportunities and tools to allow people to converse and collaborate.

This becomes trickier when you consider our current working environment. As well as dealing with a weight of uncertainty none of us has experienced on this scale, many of us are separated from our colleagues – whether we’re required to keep a ‘safe’ distance on a work site or working solo from our homes.

This socially distanced set-up doesn’t allow for those spontaneous interactions and happy accidents that lead to innovation. We don’t overhear conversations in the kitchen that make a lightbulb go off in our heads, or glance at someone’s screen as we walk by and see something that would help our project.

So in order to drive innovation in these uncertain times, we need to replicate those conversational moments that make knowledge sharing and innovation possible.

Again, it’s about that balance – creating a culture that empowers them to be creative, enabling them to share and collaborate by putting the right tools in place, and finally building trust by listening to their needs.

1. Empower

In times of change, our first thoughts are selfish: “What does this mean for me? How is this going to affect me?” This is particularly true when driving innovation, because often you’re asking people to push themselves out of their comfort zones or learn something new.

That’s why it’s important to dispel any anxieties by personalising communication and clearly, honestly and consistently explaining the rationale behind decisions.

2. Enable

Encouraging community within your organisation is integral to those ‘happy accidents’ that lead to knowledge sharing and innovation.

Introduce social and collaboration tools – the likes of Yammer and Workplace – and bring people together virtually – such as in lunch and learns – to enable those connections.

3. Listen

The biggest mistake we see organisations make is trying to give people what they think they want, rather than asking them what they need. So take the time to talk to your people and adjust your approach based on their needs.

And – arguably more importantly – ensure you’re giving people a voice and show that you’re listening. If you want people to put themselves out there when it comes to innovation, you need to build trust. Help people to trust the organisation by showing the organisation trusts them to speak up, share ideas and be creative.

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In partnership with the Institute of Internal Communications (IoIC), Sequel will deliver Microsoft 365 virtual training for internal communication professionals. Click here to find out more, or subscribe to Sequel Shares to get our regular curation of IC information and insight.

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