Enterprise Social Innovation

By Prabhaker Yasa, VP-Information Technology Group, JDA Software

Enterprise social innovation occurs when people across and around the enterprise contribute to its innovative capabilities through a normal workday. Traditionally, organizations have had treasure troves of skills and knowledge, however these were deeply embedded within silos of human and system capabilities.The evolution of the connected enterprise is driving modern organizations to be socially engaged and surface these treasures. Customers, partners, employees and other community stakeholders are driving collaborative social innovation and reaping benefits of enhanced productivity, innovation and profitability.

Organizations or departments that continue to be characterized by islands of underutilized capabilities can build a high performance culture of social innovation, if they are willing to nurture, ground-up, three  essential drivers.

The first driver is a rapid scaling up on the breadth and depth of employee skill sets

Good organizations profile their workforce by envisioning the required end results. They engage employees through learning eco-systems that conduct in-depth skills analysis and establish in-depth personal and professional growth roadmaps. Such eco-systems base decisions on sound knowledge of its human capital for a ‘who-needs-what-where-and-when’ analysis deliver targeted learnings and monitor skill throughput and outcomes continuously. Finally they enhance skill sets by conducting programs developed on targeted learning goals and provide the necessary resources like online learning platforms, classroom trainings and on-the-job learning.

While a targeted skills monitoring and dissipation eco-system is emphasized above, the quality of the content itself is equally important when it comes to building quality insights and raising the innovation quotient. Quality content is relevant, up-to-date and easily accessible knowledge made available to employees. Knowledge Management systems, for example, are very helpful in this regard, as they stimulate a culture of enterprise wide knowledge creation and consumption. They are built around the principle of semantically and syntactically appropriate information, targeted at the right audience, through efficient information architecture. They help promote curiosity and encourage participation where everybody contributes. Organizations should aim to connect knowledge resources in collaborative and creative ways. Gamification can then be used to promote and reward individuals to contribute enthusiastically.

There are more involved approaches to building insightful capabilities too. Analytical reporting methodologies like the balanced score card, showcase learning and growth opportunities at individual and department levels. They also help teams understand how their dynamics are panning out and how their relationships with all other resources in the organization are paying dividends. Through active retrospection using similar methodologies, employees improve their ability to think critically and insight-fully.

The third is building the culture of sharing

When information flows freely among skilled and insightful workforces, ideas abound and innovation can come from the most inconspicuous of places, which is the ‘social’ aspect of social innovation. Knowledge then presents itself in simple day-to-day events like conversations, meetings, documents, reports and the like. It requires executive focus in bringing all of the organizations resources like people, technology, processes, culture and information together to create an eco-system where this knowledge can be captured, consolidated and applied to drive innovation.

For example, ideations fests that hold competitions and team activities enable workers to connect and interact at various levels. The participants bring together knowledge from deep within the enterprise, out in the open. These informal settings build a ground for unleashing creative potential across teams resulting in improved motivation levels and greater trust. A trusting worker will more easily share his or her tacit knowledge and make more knowledge workers in the process.
To summarize, social innovation is when everyone contributes to an organizations ability to innovate. Innovation can be in any area whether processes, products, systems or others. The journey starts internally, by creating skilled resources as capable employees, fostering insightfulness to develop an organizational think tank and nurturing a culture of sharing that connects all dots for wholesome innovation. Similar efforts can be made with partners, vendors and customers for higher degrees of social innovation. Focused and sustained efforts to creating such an organization helps drive higher levels of productivity, creativity, quality and stakeholder satisfaction.

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