Innovation and productivity: two terms that are often found in the same sentence, in the same strategy, in the same vision. In short, a correlation is taken for certain between these two words and the idea we have of a company projected into the future, a company that is not static, not stationary, but on the contrary with a clear definition of its development and, therefore, of its investments. We are living in the most exciting era for innovation, digital transformation, digitization of processes, and technology that benefits every professional area, from production to sales, from management to customer care. New technological tools are constantly appearing on the market, promising organizations a leap forward and a marked improvement in their competitiveness.
But where are the cogs that link innovation to a company’s evolution? And what are technology’s allies that can make it effective in creating the right and constant momentum? Finally, can productivity be improved “simply” by adopting new technologies?
The dual soul of innovation.
The first term we mentioned is “innovation.” One of the key players, as we have said, in recent years. We know that those who embrace innovation are more likely to grow, maintain competitiveness, and suffer less from unforeseen events and market changes. If we ask the vocabulary what innovation is, it gives us two answers:
- It is the act of innovating, that is introducing new systems, arrangements, and methods.
- It is any novelty, change, or transformation that radically alters or otherwise causes effective de-aging.
Novelty and effectiveness are staples of the definition of “innovation.” And (we add to make the concept more specific) innovation is not just about technology. Still, it is about a change that first touches the way the company is conceived in strategic, productive, managerial, and organizational terms.
Changing tools, and replacing them with more modern and high-performance devices, is not enough. It is necessary to change the mental schemes and the modus operandi simultaneously. And this part of innovation is perhaps the most difficult. Not least because, while adopting technology may be a “top-down” decision, implementing new modes of operation requires the collaboration of the entire corporate population.
Productivity: it is not a matter of individuals.
Another point concerns the second term with which we opened this article. In this case, it is a word that contains a whole: the total contribution of individuals within a company. If we think about it, we often reason about productivity by tying it to the individual, but – as W. Edwards Deming, the celebrated executive and innovator, – almost all of the company’s possibilities for improvement (as well as the vast majority of its problems) are tied to the system and not to individuals. Of course, the individual employee must provide efficiencies from any area and regardless of role. Still, for a real productivity advantage, we must look at how individual efficiencies interact, collaborate, and concur to build common action. No one within the organization works in isolation. The effectiveness of what we do is connected to what everyone else in the company does. That is also why we need, in parallel, a change of modes and tools evolved and designed precisely to offer the best support to the operations of the individual and collaboration among all.
To innovate is to change. Tools, head, gestures.
Innovation is technology. Innovation is a new rule. Innovation is a new, or rather renewed, role for everyone. And innovation is collaboration. That requires a revolution in the corporate mindset, which is not only that of the person who decides strategies or controls operations but also that of everyone. The company functions as a whole. Of course, a mindset change is perhaps the most complex challenge for an organization; indeed, it is an individual and global challenge. Difficult to propose and manage. The first stumbling block is the resistance to change that so many companies experience and try to overcome. If change is imposed, the result will be greater resistance. Or, in any case, a nonproductive effort to implement it. Any change in this sense is not characterized by the simple adoption of new and more advanced tools, requiring the acquisition of a new skill, but also by the transformation of interaction with others: colleagues, superiors, collaborators, technicians, experts, and suppliers. Therefore, a change with a double significance is required: operational and social. The employee who is given new tools is faced with a commitment to learning how to use them and apply them to his or her daily activities. But, if the mode of interaction with other inhabitants of the company system also changes, the commitment is more significant and different. The employee will have to create new references for himself to operate according to the new patterns. If the benefit of this change is unclear or the commitment will seem without reason, then resistance to change will grow. And the employee’s satisfaction will decrease.
This resistance develops for a few reasons in particular, among which we can mention those identified by the two experts, John P. Kotter and Leonard A. Schlesinger:
- self-interest: the interests of the organization do not seem to coincide with personal interests; on the contrary, they seem to cause something to be lost, for example, the type of relationship with colleagues and contact persons or the level achieved in the management of operational procedures that will be replaced.
- the misunderstanding and lack of trust: not clarifying the positive implications of the change or the advantage for everyone in adopting the new technological tools can make one perceive only the more complicated and challenging side.
- the difference in evaluations: if those who initiate the change, thanks to the information they have, clearly see the positive impact, those who do not have access to that information may reach a different evaluation based solely on their observation landscape.
- low tolerance for change: some people, mainly when a change is being considered in a tight timeframe, may be concerned that they will not be able, in the manner and timeframe required, to acquire or develop the skills needed for the new type of operation.
How do you act to avoid these consequences and support the change of mindset?
The individual and the system: from resistance to involvement.
The pivot around which innovation, understood as change, can revolve closely depends on the concept of leadership. Leaders (in the different degrees and roles in which they may be found) are responsible for inspiring instrumental and cultural change in the workforce. Nurturing the potential of teams and stimulating their internal collaboration, identifying goals that engage individuals and stimulate them, supporting with energy and enthusiasm (as well as by example) the evolution to be seen as guides, emphasizing the role that change plays in everyone’s daily operations, which leaves room for the personal growth and creativity professional of individuals, who can become active not only in responding to change, but also in building it, shaping it, acquiring a leading role.
It is natural to expect resistance to change. And the antidote is related to knowing and understanding the emotional logic that generates it to find the best ways to introduce and drive change, not by imposing it but by embodying it.
Digital workspaces as allies of change and performance.
Among the tools that technology has made available to companies in recent years are Digital Workspaces. These are indeed the preferred tool not only for enabling organizations to improve their competitiveness, increasing productivity, and decreasing the presence and impact of errors and inefficiencies but also because they reflect the need for companies to embark on a path of creating new operability. Digital workspaces offer all the advanced tools employees need to be more efficient in their daily tasks. Still, they also provide evolved tools for collaboration, communication, and interactions at all levels. They accompany the corporate population during each stage of change, enabling them to acquire the new skills required more easily and naturally while simultaneously increasing everyone’s satisfaction. They empower the system and the individual, thus empowering the company and supporting its evolution in concrete, functional and targeted way.