Spontaneity in innovation – Does unbridled exuberance lead to success?


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Spontaneity, that eureka! moment, when it seems that the whole universe is prodding you to succeed, is a key factor in innovation. However, it’s not that it comes to you right out of the blue. Behind it is years of research, struggle, experience, application, trial and error, call it whatever you want. Whether active or passive, much has gone into bringing on that one idea with which you shall change the world.

However, the debate has been whether innovation thrives in an unstructured environment where you let it come to you unannounced or in a more structured environment where you create the ambience for innovative work focused on revealing what the next big thing is. Perhaps in a step-by-step fashion and eventually, it will unfold and show returns.

Studies have shown that with more formal innovation structures and processes, there is higher satisfaction and better outcomes. However, there needs to be some chaos, the ability to imagine and dream, even within formal structures in order for the unconventional to reveal itself, break the mold and set a trend. It’s important to have a product management and development structure within organizations but, its more important to separate the people focused on current products and releases that follow schedules to meet current client needs from those whose role is to imagine, dream, try to test out new things without the pressure of supporting ongoing business needs. Ensuring there is an open line to receive client feedback on current products can help influence the direction of research to keep it close to the markets being served. However, there is a balance that needs to be drawn here to ensure that the influence is not so much that the team ends up serving client custom needs but is actually focused on creating better products with better outcomes, sometimes in a sense that may even create a new pivot.

High cross functional collaboration, greater risk tolerance appetite, research driven organizations with supportive eco systems tend to do better than those that are narrowly focused on bottom lines. The truth is that true innovation results in improved employee morale, spontaneity and better bottom lines naturally.

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Who do you work for?


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When asked the question, some of the common answers are – myself, my family & my company. There are those that refuse to acknowledge they are working for anyone, be it a person or an organization and use the word “with”, I work “with” xyz. Semantics, I guess. And then, there are those that state they work for their boss.

We all work to provide for our dependents and ourselves. The question is not what do you work for, but who.

If you are an entrepreneur and pride yourself in working for yourself, there is some truth to that, but ultimately, the superior power that determines your actions lies with your customers, suppliers & investors. They can dictate the terms of your work. If you work for an organization, ideally your work and its attributes should be focused at fulfilling your organization’s obligations toward its customers and shareholders. Each of us that works in the corporate world falls somewhere on an organizational ladder with a “boss” that we report into. The boss has the power to determine your paycheck, your upward mobility within the organization and responsibilities you’ll handle. Some bosses are company focused which means your expectations fall in line as well. In such situations, there is more transparency built-in between levels i.e. employee reach extends beyond the immediate boss and through a couple of levels above. This is healthy as hierarchical stress is not as much and opportunities open up for those truly talented and doing the right thing. Others are self-serving and that’s when conflict may arise. That’s when one may end up working for a boss. Corporate politics can dictate where ones’ loyalties lie. Much depends on the employee-boss relationship & the personalities involved therein. Many employees are in the process of pleasing their bosses than in the actual performance of their job to meet the objectives they signed up for. And, these employees cannot be blamed altogether for it since they are acting in defense of their position and in many a case, they themselves are the only defense they may have.

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There have been arguments that state flat organizational structures may be the answer to curb such influences, where employees work in teams and natural leaders emerge as a part of the execution strategy. The emphasis is on actually getting things done to meet common objectives sans a hierarchy within the organization. Well, it may work to an extent in smaller organizations but flat structures are not scalable for growth. As organizations grow, flexibility & controls need to be established using the hierarchy model. And, in every mid to large organization, there are numerous rungs on the corporate ladders. Then, what is the optimal strategy for ensuring that the focus of every employee is truly on corporate goals and not hijacked by personal corporate politics? A strong HR policy propagated by a strong HR team with the support of top management can achieve this to an extent but in a complex business environment, it is difficult to altogether do away with it. Again, having an HR team that functions independently is a difficult thing to achieve in an organization. The HR team too falls on the corporate ladder. There will always be employees serving bosses for various reasons. Although, not completely healthy, this is a true fact in the corporate world and should be managed to optimize it.

When faced with such a predicament, employees who find it detrimental to their principles & career might look for other opportunities so as not to sacrifice their potential & aspirations catering to the whims of an overbearing, self-serving boss. There are also employees who do the boss’s bidding and focus on keeping the boss happy in order to safeguard their jobs. In both cases, it’s detrimental to the corporation, whether through the loss of productive employees for the wrong reasons or by having unproductive employees stay just managing their supervisors. But, at the same time, such bosses are a more serious predicament since their influence and its effect tends to be on a larger scale. It’s the prerogative of every organization to take this issue seriously and work through its channels to monitor and minimize such situations, if not totally eradicate them to ensure optimal productivity of the employee base. Much of it comes from encouraging true transparency throughout the organization irrespective of reporting relationships. And such transparency can be propagated through frequent top-down-top communication, more objective 360 degree performance appraisals, employee reviews as well as supervisor reviews, career pathing, ensuring employees with the right skills are not in wrong jobs etc.

That’s a starter list of ways to nurture healthy employee-work dynamics within organizations. I look forward to see you add to it.

I have a stupid question…..


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You are in the conference room attending an office meeting. There is a pretty animated discussion in progress about some of the ongoing projects. Part of the stuff discussed just made it over your head. You want to ask a question but restrain while evaluating if it would make you look stupid or ignorant.

Here’s another one. You are participating in a discussion and have something to say that would add value to the conversation and perhaps, throw some new light on it. As you play it in your head before you react, the discussion has moved on or someone else has an opinion. Now, you have second thoughts about your input and decide to leave it at that.

And here’s yet another one. You are participating in a conference call. Something one of the executives said is not completely true. You believe the executive is mis-informed. You know the facts and can back them up but are contemplating whether to interject or not.

If the person in any of the above scenarios is you, you have just pushed yourself into oblivion yet again. You have unknowingly lost an opportunity to rise to the occasion and further, moved into a more obscure existence in the corporate world.

Dear friend, a majority of us have to work for a living. That’s the universal truth. Then, why not choose the work of your liking and further, perform it to its justifiable purpose and your satisfaction. Why not make it provide the best of opportunities for you while you enjoy the journey and leverage the relationships you make along the way. The most important person to please in this endeavor  is you;  the one who can make a difference in paving your professional path is you and the one who can play a role in your success or not is again, you!

So, in your own interest, never hesitate for a moment in what you believe is right. If you have input in a conversation, share. If you hear something that you do not believe matches up to facts that you can vouch for, voice your opinion. If you haven’t followed a dialogue and have a question, no matter how silly it may be, ask. Remember, when in ignorance, nothing is ever silly or stupid. You just didn’t know.

Confidence is a key player in the office arena. Not just confidence in relating what you know, but questioning what you didn’t know or do not agree with. The people you relate to are just the same as you. As long as you are respectful of your surroundings & the people that you work with, everything is game and welcome.

Frequent active communication and interaction are key, even in today’s hi-tech world.

Small talk, how much do you indulge in?


Whether at work or in a social gathering, small talk plays a vital role in breaking the ice and taking conversations to the next level while developing relationships and taking them into exciting places. Whether you are an introvert or not, its important to conciously engage in conversations with others to develop your network as well as conversational skiils.

In work situations, small talk helps cement relationships with your colleagues and peers and actually, brings about a certain ease into these working relationships. The friendships this fosters goes a long way in helping you do a good job as well as improve your standing at work. However, on the flip side, there is a possibility of the small talk overshadowing actual work when seriousness is required to accomplish certain goals. Uncontrolled small talk has a tendency to overshadow the actual premise of what it needs to support and can further encourage gossip and groupism at work. This can be a detriment to teams working together for the accomplishment of common goals.

It has been observed that the workforce of the East is predominantly not at ease with small talk. This needs to become a learned habit in order to excel in the corporate world. At the same time, small talk has to be meaningful, intelligent and situation based. A little general knowledge and awareness of your surroundings goes a long way in helping you strike up a conversation.

So, the next time you see someone you’d like to get to know, or nurture a work relationship, strike up that conversation and leave your mark!