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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: CIPD 2012 – HR acts as an ‘inhibitor to innovation’

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For innovation to flourish, HR professionals must stop acting as the “custodians of consistency” and start helping to break down the general view of organisations as single, uniform monoliths with no room for difference.

To this end, Graham Abbey, director of executive development at Bath University, told attendees at a panel discussion entitled 'Networking across boundaries: How collaboration and knowledge-sharing drive innovation' at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s annual event in Manchester last week, that it was time for practitioners to start re-evaluating their role.
 
While HR had to date largely seen itself as a service provider to the business and had been viewed as an “instrument of management – so command-and-control management 1.0”, today’s financial climate meant that such attitudes were no longer appropriate.
 
"While maintaining a guiding hand, we create more chaos. Being able to appreciate difference means being different ourselves. It means releasing our own inner innovator and becoming a role model," Abbey said.
 
The current financial situation was one of the key reasons behind the imperative to do things differently. "But you can’t just slim activities down. You have to think about and do things in a radically different way,” he added.
 
A problem that many organisations faced in introducing such change, however, was the fact that their operations were primarily target-driven. But, as Abbey pointed out, “results-based drivers can stifle innovation”.
 
“The ability to deliver can get in the way of innovation, and the relationship that many organisations have with targets poses a risk to that innovation. It’s something that we need to wrestle with,” he explained.
 
Another consideration was simply how to bring different perspectives together by encouraging people to work together who normally wouldn’t. “It’s about bringing unlike things together such as HR and finance because it’s at the boundaries of both that innovation comes,” Abbey said.
 
Because it was very risky to try and change company culture overnight, however, he recommended identifying small units or groups of people who could be allowed to experiment and think about how to solve problems.
 
“You’d have to find ways of protecting them from the usual structures and let them loose. It’s scary if you’ve grown up in an organisation where it’s not done, but you’ve got to start somewhere and this is reasonably safe,” Abbey concluded.
 

One Response

  1. HR can help to bring more focus on innovation

    If target-driven organisations can inhibit creativity and innovation, then why not adding innovation as a corporate value / key competency to all relevant job descriptions and inserting innovation as a predefined goal in every employee’s goal setting document. This surely will bring focus to those areas.

    An efficient, easy-to-update HRIS should allow HR to play a key role in aligning a company’s workforce with its business goals and overall strategy. I agree however that using talent management software without clear business sense can bring the opposite…

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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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