11 digital principles for building a creative digital workforce

It’s important to set core principles for building and nurturing an environment in the organization where curiosity is encouraged, and creative thinking is rewarded.

With fast-paced changes and continuous digital disruptions, businesses across industry sectors get more cut-throat in the hyper-connected working environment. It puts stress on the labor force that is not conducive to more creative and experimental thinking. To survive in today’s digital dynamic, it’s strategic imperative to create a disciplined and managed space for inspiring creativity, developing and testing new business models, products, services and business management approaches, shielding innovation teams from the organization’s dominant logic and established standard operating procedures, in order to encourage creative thinking and embrace fresh perspectives. Here is a set of core digital principles for building a creative working environment to unleash collective human potential.

1. It is important to discover the needs of innovation as the first step

Business innovation is about creating a value proposition that would move your prospects to become your clients; more importantly, to improve customer retention. It takes vision, empathy and understanding of cohesive business efforts for managing a balanced innovation portfolio with the right mix of breakthrough innovation, evolutionary innovation and incremental innovation. Put the purpose, people and consumers' experiences at the center of everything you do. Communicate the higher purpose and establish clear and shared goals. People must believe in the company’s vision and mission. Priorities are clear and no longer look arbitrary. Innovation is not just about a new design, a new color, or a new seasonal change. Innovation is not only about an amazing idea or the marketing change of an existing product. Innovation is also about utilizing what you already have in a unique and creative way that has not been done before and using that thing to make a profit.

2. Recreate the start-up stage to encourage dissent, candor and independent thinking

The digital world is dynamic, nonlinear, uncertain and volatile. One of the biggest challenges in this dynamic and complex digital world is the fact that we need different perspectives, different knowledge and different ways to solve problems. We should also take alternative paths of experimenting, adventuring and exploring the digital new normal, to achieve well-set business goals. It’s not so easy for many organizations, especially those large well-established organizations to de-bureaucratize and become innovative. It is critical to recreate the startup stage and develop an environment in which business leaders encourage dissent, candor and inspire people to question the status quo and think independently. Sometimes there is no "one" answer, there are some or many. Running an innovative business means that an organization can think “out of the box,” figure out alternative ways to do things from the outside-in lens, build new products or services based on the business needs, and come up with optimal solutions to fixing either existing or emergent problems.

3. Build a strong culture to enforce transparency and long-term business relationships

Digital technology makes the world more open and transparent than ever. At the organizational level, businesses are always on and hyperconnected. They should cultivate the right environment to foster integrity, trust, transparency and risk-taking in order to build a creative workforce. The business keeps processes transparent; managers do not micromanage but inspect and keep track of what the team is doing. Tie innovation and innovative culture to the organization's strategy by enforcing the long-term business relationship development. This ensures that innovations will be supported by management and by all stakeholders. Often, organizations with a command type of organizational culture indifferent to external innovations. Without a cross-functional and end-to-end perspective across the entire enterprise, business managers and teams operate with an incomplete and relatively small view of the business ecosystem, tend to focus on their own functions or departments, stifle information flow and idea flow. Keep in mind though; cultivating an innovative culture is not an isolated business process but an ongoing digital transformation journey. You may also influence the culture through the rapid learning cycle which stands on its own as a separate point of influence.

4. Allow autonomy; let people choose how and on what they work

Digital organizations encourage autonomy and inspire creativity. To put another way, the management focuses on “why,” and “what,” not “how.” Autonomy stimulates creativity. Creativity has a language, but it is altogether different from the one found in the conventional business environment. Every person has an unknown amount of creativity, motivation and productivity as well as an unknown amount of imagination, intelligence, knowledge, experience and energy. The majority of innovative organizations are headed by strong leaders who can see, understand and appreciate the merits of people who can think differently. How much brainpower employees will unleash on their work depends almost totally on the leadership and corporate culture. Encourage curiosity and develop a growth mindset. Provide intellectual challenges and help people make continuous progress. Give the team freedom to do things in their own way, figure out alternative solutions and deliver the best outcome. Generally speaking, you must allow room for failures, for tangents and for "being different." With autonomy, the team organizes by itself on how it will address the problem that has been presented to it.

5. Focus on what customers want and what the marketplace is moving towards

One of the key characteristics of the digital business is customer centricity. Thus, the customer is absolutely a vital part of the overall innovation process. Customer-centric innovation accomplishes far more than incremental product improvement. It can also build evolutionary business models, as well as path-breaking products and services that establish new categories, and even internal process improvements arise from customer-centric innovation. Customers, including prospects should be studied and observed. Gain an empathetic understanding of users through deep observations and leverage a more inductive approach as to what the customer wants to accomplish "next." Focusing on meeting important customers’ need, instead of just doing simply interesting research topics, helps to assure that the results of innovative approaches will have a positive impact on clients, partners, end users and the marketplace.

6. Look at innovation from the perspective of developing business-wide innovation capabilities

Innovation has three phases: Discovery of a problem or new idea, designing a prototype solution and the ultimate delivery of a commercially astute outcome. The best point of view is to see innovation as a system, capable of delivering the organization-wide capability. The organizational content is the innovation capability which is how the organization innovates. It requires an effective 'innovation system' that is capable of supporting both widespread incremental innovations in products or services as well as the rarer 'step-change' innovations of working methodologies, business models and market positioning. Innovative organizations deploy a range of different management disciplines, technologies, processes and structural solutions. Innovation management requires the highest risk-taking at a strategic value chain; including organizations, investments and assets. Create a disciplined and managed space for developing and testing new models, products and business management approaches. An innovation ecosystem or the methodological environment should cover the whole innovation processes, from processes in managing ideas or idea handling systems to idea implementation and promotion.

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