Monday, October 23, 2017

"Drop these terms from your work lexicon"/ innovation

Jul 12, 2017 "Drop these terms from your work lexicon": Today I found this article by Guy Dixon in the Globe and Mail:

The millennial label stereotypes young workers, and it’s skills and not job titles that are most important now

It seems there are many no-no’s when it comes to talking about millennials and baby boomers at work.

Specialists in workplace trends even suggest dropping the overused “millennial” label, in particular, from the discussion altogether.

And while we’re at it, they suggest dropping job titles too, or at least refrain from overemphasizing job titles on résumés, since many of those titles belie how rapidly job roles and functions are changing.

That was the broad message from two recent panel discussions, one on millennials, one on boomers, held during The Globe and Mail’s human-resources summit, Solving Workplace Challenges in the Modern Economy, where the 2017 Employee Recommended Workplace Award, which recognizes companies that put the health and wellness of their employees first, were presented. The award was co-created by The Globe and human-resources consulting firm Morneau Shepell.

Despite the different needs of both age groups (boomers looking to transition into later stages of their careers and to find a sense of legacy in their work; millennials seeking new ways to find careers having purpose and meaning), there are nevertheless many trends that cross generations.

For one, there’s the attitude of just saying no to the status quo regarding job titles.

Companies hire based on what they anticipate they’ll need five years from now, but “the reality is that none of those skill sets will ever make any sense on a résumé,” said Dave Wilkin, founder of the career-networking service, speaking at the panel on millennials.

In other words, titles and formal résumés can be meaningless. It’s what employees can do that’s more important, since jobs are changing so rapidly.

“Anybody who looks at their parents and says, ‘What should I do when I grow up?’ will never get an accurate response, because the jobs that existed five years ago don’t exist today,” he said.

That’s of course an exaggeration. But “what that means is that we need people to be creators and not managers,” he said. It means figuring out “how can the next generation actually create their own opportunities, be it creating their own companies, or actually creating opportunities inside their organizations?”

The stereotype is that younger people are more nimble and tech savvy and therefore have technical skills that employers need. That may be true, but it’s an assumption that only goes so far. As said Mary Barroll, president of the job-listing service Talent Egg, employers “believe they can teach technical skills, but they can’t teach character.”

Employers are looking for signs of leadership, she said. “They are looking less for a person who fits a particular slot, but really it’s more about the person.”

Similarly, Jacqueline Foley, chief marketing officer at executivesearch firm Odgers Berndtson Canada who also helps run the CEO for a Day program – allowing students to meet and shadow chief executives for one day – noted that the real job interview doesn’t come when candidates are being formally interviewed. It comes “when we have lunch or a social function afterward, and all the partners come in, and we’re all just chitchatting. And that’s when you really see how they interact with people.”

Work and career building (or career transitioning later in life) is about the experience of work and being able to handle many different functions, they suggested.

The panel on baby boomers stressed this even more for older workers.

“A big part of it is separating your title from your skills, and it’s actually advice youcan give to any age group,” said Eileen Dooley, vice-president at VF Career Management. “When I take a look at a résumé, for example, I always ask, ‘What on here are you good at, but that you don’t want to do any more?’ ”

Her advice for those entering a new, later stage of career is, “Only focus on what you want to do, and that you’re good at.” (This of course assumes a certain amount of economic viability, that doing what you want pays enough.)

Another key element is knowledge transfer. Younger workers need the institutional knowledge and wisdom of older workers. Older workers seek legacy, although here too is another no-no, argued Lisa Taylor, chief executive officer of Challenge Factory, a consultancy and analytical firm focusing on the aging work force.

Ms. Taylor feels that knowledge transfer is too rigid. It implies the passing down of know-how in a formalized, possibly antiquated way. Instead, she said it should be more of a translation of knowledge, imparting knowledge in ways more relevant to current needs – in other words, forgetting the generational divide and any sense of stiff mentorship for more of freer-flowing mentorship and reverse-mentorship interaction.

“As an organization, you either have a culture of collaboration, or you don’t. If that person is resisting collaborating or sharing information, chances are that’s a pattern that has existed over the course of their career. And it’s either something fostered within the culture of the organization, or it isn’t,” she said.

Some of this resistance can come from how older workers are treated. “We know in Canada that training for older workers starts to decline at the age of 49. That’s very, very young. We know that subtle cues start to be given through organizations, that it’s kind of time for them to start thinking of moving somewhere, not here,” Ms. Taylor said.

But that’s a flawed approach. All workers, young and old, former employees and retired ones, inevitably remain brand ambassadors for the remainder of their lives. So, companies should make that a positive relationship, as much as possible. Here, once again, it’s about the experience one has at work, regardless of generation, job title and skill set.

Vanessa Cohen, senior vicepresident in the technology practice of Environics Communications, put it succinctly for both millennials and boomers: It used to be about promotions and titles. Now it’s about who you are and what you want to be.

Jul. 28, 2017 "Sticky notes and whiteboards don't equal innovation": Today I found this article by Brian Moelich in the Globe and Mail:

Managers drawn to surface-level tools don’t realize that creative problem-solving requires much more than simple instruments

Seeing whiteboards with doodles and sticky notes all over them in corporate offices is quite common these days.

These are typically the result of an organization integrating innovation practices such as design-thinking with the hope of driving new growth or instilling a customer-centric approach to problem-solving. The problem is that organizations get caught up in the theatre of these practices (the aforementioned hoopla of putting sticky notes onto a whiteboard) and mistake that theatre for being innovative.

Let’s be honest with ourselves; going to an experiential workshop to learn a way of thinking that gets you out of your chair and in front of customers while building a mountain of sticky notes is a lot more entertaining than a seminar on optimizing the efficiency of your supply chain.

That’s the problem. Managers get drawn into the surface-level tools of these practices without recognizing that being innovative requires more than just tools.

From my experience on the front lines of corporate innovation in Silicon Valley, I’ve identified these three requirements for the successful implementation of innovation practices.

Adoption of innovation practices needs to be a company-wide initiative

Change at any organization is dead on arrival without buy-in and prioritization from leadership, as well as a willingness to participate among the employees.

Leadership needs to clearly articulate to the organization what innovation means, how it is practised and where to focus innovation efforts.

Without a common language, practice and focus, there is a strong probability confusion will take root. When confusion starts to seep in, employees become disillusioned with leadership and new initiatives are viewed with skepticism.

Once employees see that their leaders are championing the new practice, they will feel comfortable using it themselves, which in turn spurs comfort with bringing their own ideas forward and a willingness to participate in something new.

The tools need to be directed at meaningful problems

Further to the point that your innovation efforts need a focus, the problems you choose to solve also need to be meaningful to both your customers and the organization.

Organizations need to recognize that if the solution you’re pursuing, whether entirely new or an improvement on an existing one, isn’t solving a meaningful problem for the customer, it’s just a waste of resources.

Why is your customer going to care about the new widget you bring to market or a new whizbang feature if it’s not helping them?

On the other side of the table, your innovation efforts need to solve problems relevant to the organization.

Figure out what keeps leaders up at night and what their strategy and goals are, because it’s far easier to garner buy-in for a new idea or change if you can remedy an organizational challenge.

One last point on this: It is always better to start with a problem and build a solution, than to start with a solution and find a problem to solve with it.

Use innovation practices to facilitate deeper thinking

Most organizations are outcome-focused and view going through a workshop as an outcome, equating that with progress.

Unfortunately, a single workshop only touches the surface of a problem and doesn’t drive the hard work of thinking deeply about organizational challenges and envisioning future solutions.

View a workshop as a first step, something to spur your thinking and imagination. The most important thing is to come back and iterate on your thinking.

Take the outputs from the workshop, whether ideas of what the problem might be or potential prototypes of a hypothesized solution, as assumptions that need to be proven true by testing them with customers.

Remember, you need to be solving meaningful problems for your customers, and the only way you’ll know if you are is by testing your outputs with them. Once you’ve learned something from customer testing, revisit your thinking from the workshop and iterate using the new information.

Successful innovation requires more than the theatre of sticky notes and whiteboards. These are just tools to drive deeper thinking on meaningful problems and their success is reliant on company-wide buy-in of the new practices.

No comments: