The Key to an Innovative Company — Berlin Meet up

Last week, I had the opportunity to represent Happyforce at the “The Key to an Innovative company” meetup in Berlin. The meetup was organized by Innovation Coach, Sabrina Hauptman and was hosted by Google’s Women Techmakers and the E-Post Deutsche Post.

I was invited to speak at the Berlin Meet up by Sabrina, who also invited Sharon Ortega founder of Toast Barcelona. Sabrina wanted us two as the featured guest speakers to support her hypothesis. Her hypothesis served as the backbone for the entire talk, which supported organizations to design for Happiness, because Happiness unlocks creativity, and creativity leads to innovative solutions.

My contributions to the talk consisted of a combination of learnings from my personal experience, our clients know-how as well as research on the field of innovation. So here I am, giving those who couldn’t attend the meet up an insight of what I shared. ( You’re welcome! 😉 )

My part of the talk began by showing the audience a very interesting poll I found by Mckinsey & Company done in 2016. Results of the poll indicated that:

94% of managers were dissatisfied with their company’s innovation performance.

Initially, I asked myself, Why? How is this possible? I was shocked because I thought, now more than ever before, organizations investment for innovation is at it’s highest. Companies have endless tools for acceleration of innovation such as business incubators, the process for mining customer insights, an idea wiki, and whole departments paid simply to innovate, yet struggle to meet the growth goals of an organization? This didn’t make sense to me.

I tried to investigate further for the potential causes of the result of this Mckinsey and Company poll, but I was left empty handed. Despite unsuccessfully finding the follow-up information to the poll, I began to reflect on this large percentage of unsatisfied managers. I thought perhaps the cause of this dissatisfaction, can be because innovations are typically generated by the 15% top talent of each company. I came to this conclusion because that’s all I know, based on personal experience, clients, and case studies.

.. But think about your own organization.

Where is Innovation fostered? Who is responsible to innovate? Is everyone playing a role, or is there just a specifically chosen groups designated to innovate? The majority of employees will say their organization follows the second option, which makes me wonder, what about the remaining 85% of the organization? Why do companies tend to neglect the 85% to actively participate in innovative solutions, when they constitute a majority of the organization?

Let’s add some perspective:

If I was running a retail company, it would be of my utmost interest to listen to the feedback the salesman or women has when in contact with our customers. These employees interact with our customers every single day in the direct point of sale. They understand the customer needs, the commonly associated setbacks from buying, they’re in contact with the products we serve, as well as with the processes and logistics of delivery and inventory. They are also the employees that create a direct link to transmit the company values directly to our buyers. So, why don’t we ask them for suggestions, or ideas about ways to improve and innovate? Are they not more suited to have suggestions than employees who are disconnected and are not involved in the day to day operations?

The same applies to an industrial organization: industrial workers are in contact every single day with the machinery at work, they have insights regarding process, methods and procedure effectiveness. They are also trying to assess ways to accelerate efficiency and quality. Why don’t we ask for their input for smart feedback to become more innovative?

Maximize innovation

These scenarios shed light on the fact that IF we manage to maximize diversity in points of view, we maximize the potential for innovation, especially if we encourage opinions and feedback from different employee backgrounds, different problem-solving skills, different tasks, and daily activities. In this way, you collect expertise in every area of your organization to make better innovative solutions. By bringing people together, you cross-pollinate across different channels, and without the need of job rotation.

Another advantage of this to avoid groupthink, within any industry or organization, mental models tend to converge over time. Executives read the same articles, talk to the same consultants, and focus on the same competitors and trends. After a while, they all think alike, so even the 15% chosen to innovate nowadays need inspiration.

But how can we possibly gather collective intelligence by connecting with every SINGLE one of your employees?

This seems quite unattainable, especially in large organizations where 500, to 3000 employees work, and where most of them are in fact, overseas.

Now, when you think of your own organization, you may feel it looks a little like this:

But thanks to technology and the great minds of Happyforce founders ;), we have come up with a solution to gather collective intelligence. Through our Happyforce platform, we enable conversations between management and every single employee of the company.

This bridge of communication is made possible due to the pillars of anonymity and transparency. These two pillars are key to fostering innovation. Especially the factor of anonymity, which allows us to focus on WHAT is being said rather than WHO says it. This is crucial when seeking for innovative solutions because we seek for honesty, and anonymity rules out any possibility of judgement and repercussion, and any possible fear employees may have ever felt when leaving feedback face to face. In essence, we are enabling a trustworthy environment, where its dynamics enable employees to feel comfortable to share feedback, suggestions, and ideas in the most pure an honest form, without judgement of others. This for us is the key to an innovative company.

Sounds great doesn’t it?

A practical study

During the talk, the audience really appreciated the recent study I shared with them, as well as the practical case that came with it. The study I talked about was conducted by analyzing over 200.000 comments from more than 40 of our Happyforce clients. The purpose of the inquiry was set to determine which factors motivated employees to leave more feedback related to Innovation and Suggestions, rather than Hygenic Factors, which we consider to be factors such as vacation, work benefits, work conditions etc.

To not get overly technical, the image above illustrates the results perfectly. The analysis showed that companies whose Happiness Index (HI) was high, received 60% more feedback related to innovation and suggestions, rather than receiving feedback related to hygiene factors. Inversely, companies who had a low HI reported to receive more comments and feedback fitting in the hygiene factor category than innovative suggestions. These results show nothing but a simple equation: A happier workforce leads to better innovative solutions.

The key to an innovative company

During the meetup, I also shared an anecdote from one of our previous clients to support the study with a real-life example. This client, (whose name we will keep anonymous) wanted to partner with Happyforce to “seek for innovation, improvements, and suggestions”, and in fact, the role of the person who first came in contact with us for this project was the Director of Innovation of the organization.

After a week of the launch, this individual gave us a call. He was a bit disappointed, saying something along the lines of “Hey! I implemented Happyforce for my 200 employees to get new ideas, insights, and collective knowledge, but all I get is people asking for microwaves. What’s going on?” What was actually going on is that the comments associated with this client account, had trending topics such as “microwave” “inefficiency” and “time wasted”. This meant that these were the topics of discussion with greater attention and popularity amongst the entire employee body. Employees were simply voicing they’re every day struggle during lunch time. What happened was that employees felt like they were wasting their time because there were very few microwaves at their disposal, and could not eat when they were supposed to, hence hindering productivity and increasing dissatisfaction at work.

Biggest takeaway

The moral of the story lies on the fact that we cannot simply give our employees tools and train them as puppies to magically “innovate” as easy as they would learn to sit (although I guess that could be cute…)

The key to an innovative company is that we must take care of our employees, make sure their needs are covered, make them feel good at work, proud to work for your organization. When your employees are happy, the innovations, suggestions, and insights will come through naturally.

If you have any questions or any contributions, please let us know in the comments! 🙂

PS. To all Barcelona and neighboring locals, we will be holding a meet up the 10th of October in the Mytaxi offices. For more details please refer to here. We hope to see you there!