Thriving Not Simply Surviving: Embracing a Diversity of Ideas to Build Organisations Fit for the Future

Brunch at Google Campus London, Wednesday 8th March 2017

Resilience and innovation underpin an organisation’s ability to thrive and succeed in a changing world. We cannot be complacent. This event focused on how to build a thriving organisation that is both resilient and innovative.

Resilient organisations effectively identify and tackle current challenges – macro forces such as globalisation, Brexit and climate change as well as build organisational agility to prepare for future challenges – such as automation and AI. But thriving organisations don’t just adapt, they create their own future. Innovative businesses embrace a diversity of ideas and Disruptive Talent to reimagine their worlds and foster the right ecology for growth.

On 8th March, OE Cam and BuroHappold Engineering hosted a breakfast workshop at Google Campus London bringing together 60 professionals to discuss how to build Thriving not Simply Surviving businesses. Attendees included Innovate UK, Macmillan, Mars, NATS, NBC Universal, Openwork, Virgin Active and the Woodland Trust as well as members of the Google Campus Startup Community.

We were delighted to have two keynote presentations embracing the two sides of thriving organisations – resilience and innovation:

Caroline Field, BuroHappold’s Head of Risk & Resilience presented how to comprehensively measure your organisation’s resilience and develop a prioritised action plan for improvement. This included expert insight on locating your business (which cities are fittest and most resilient), organisational adaptive capacity, community aspects and asset performance.

Hazel McLaughlin, Head of our Talent Practice and Partner at OE Cam revealed the critical human aspects of innovation and practical implications for leaders, teams and business growth. She outlined the OE Cam model of innovation and the interlinks between ideas, teams, organisational factors and the right individuals. How do start-ups retain their entrepreneurial spirit and how can leaders strike the right balance between managing risk and productive experimentation?

Following the presentations, participants worked in small groups to share ideas and debate the key themes. Our event celebrated diversity of ideas and how to focus on re-imagining the business world. The event enabled a mix of participants including Directors of Innovation with HR Directors and Millennial entrepreneurs with seasoned CEOs from a range of different industry sectors and cultures.

1. Reimagine your world: a thriving business allows time for divergent thinking. Ideas can come from across the organisation and for innovation to flourish it is important to step back, expand the scope and hear diverse and different perspectives. Apply the ‘double diamond’ approach of divergent and convergent thinking problem-solving to keep up the pace. For innovation to occur, organisations need to embrace risk taking and to tolerate failure – but learn to fail fast!

For innovation to occur, organisations need to embrace risk taking and to tolerate failure – but learn to fail fast!

Some of our participants said that their key challenge was that their leaders’ mind-set, which was on occasion, risk averse. There’s a real fear of damaging the brand if innovation was too disruptive. Leaders need to embrace innovation at a level the organisation is comfortable with: “Our leadership team wants us to be radical and divergent… but then see what works practically”.

In reality, innovation is on a spectrum. Participants said that quite often, the norm in a project environment is for continuous, incremental innovation. But to radically innovate the business model requires a commitment from the top to invest. This in turn requires the Executive to have an aligned purpose, an awareness of competitive innovations, and the will to create the right innovative environment.

2. Identify and nurture talent: All the groups acknowledged the benefit of bringing together the right combination of diverse people to enhance innovation. But it’s important to first define the problem and only then to develop the solution. This links back to the idea that leaders must be able to effectively facilitate divergent and convergent thinking.

leaders must be able to effectively facilitate divergent and convergent thinking

Disruptive Talent plays an important role in 3D and 4D innovation. Groups discussed whether it was better to recruit disruptive individuals first or change the culture first? OE Cam’s own European research suggests that ‘Innovation Architects’ can play an important role working across the silos and serving as a conduit between the core business and innovation teams. IA’s have an open-minded vision, surround themselves with reliable partners, see the big picture and empower intrapreneurs.

3. Foster environments for ideas – balance short and longer term goals: a thriving, resilient organisation needs to create space for innovation to occur but still protect its core business. If the organisation keeps the innovation separate to allow new ideas to flourish, there is still the challenges of a) transferring the innovations into the current state and b) accessing the innovative ideas of those running the current state.

… Innovation is more manageable if it is distanced from the core – but you need a permeable layer for ideas to flow back and forth

4. Lead teams that share ideas, collaborate & innovate: Leaders need to be able to successfully look across three time horizons. They need to manage risk and maintain control of the current operations, but at the same time inspire teams to innovate for the future. For radical innovation to occur, leadership needs to let go of the natural tendency towards ‘order and control’ and define a level of risk that the organisation will tolerate.

It’s hard to create a culture that is prepared to fail – that is really hard to get our heads around…

Where possible, introduce a ‘fail fast’ culture – learn not to punish failure, but to reward it.

An interactive e-book outlining the OE Cam model for innovation will be published soon. To register your interest, please send us your email address using the form opposite.

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