Did you know that 70 percent of all change initiatives fail? That’s because we are living at a time when the future of business is highly unpredictable. We don’t know what the world is going to look like in five years. The old expression, “What got me to where I am will get me to where I need to be” no longer applies. Sixty-five percent of children entering school today will work in jobs that don’t exist yet, and the times when an individual contributor was a cog in the wheel, working on the assembly line, are fast disappearing. With technology disrupting industries, today’s business leaders need to be looking ahead at the skills they need to be positioned to take advantage of new growth opportunities and secure a strategic market position.
Keeping one finger on the pulse and being ready to adapt quickly to change is no longer an option but a necessity. Companies that choose to maintain the status quo are in danger of facing the painful cost of falling behind their competitors, losing market share and facing an inevitable drop in revenue.
The state of our current situation leads to an important question: What key skills will leaders need in the future? In order to solve business problems better and more quickly than others, individuals need to focus on developing not just technical skills required to perform a particular job function but core “future-ready” skills – namely, problem-solving, creativity and innovation.
The number-one mistake today’s leaders are making is hiring key team members for technical talent alone. Today, leaders and individual contributors alike also need to learn what it means to tap into their imagination, think outside the box, and dream up ideas that will change how we experience and interact with the world. These individuals need to learn how to connect the dots among different fields. They need to have a strategic process for filtering through ideas and executing on the ones that have the potential to deliver the greatest return on their investment.
You can facilitate all of these needs more quickly by addressing workplace culture, defined as the environment that leaders create for employees. It plays a powerful role in determining their work satisfaction, relationships and progress. In order to promote a culture that drives innovation, there are three key aspects of the environment leaders, in-house trainers and consultants need to focus on to improve the outcome of their new initiatives. Assessing an organization in these environments is a strong indicator of a readiness to change and innovate and should be the first place to start.
#1: Environment of Safety
People want freedom to take risks, fail and share out-of-the-box ideas without being shut down. Facilitating environments that are “safe spaces” to speak and be heard is critical to the open exploration of new ideas and innovations. In fact, Google conducted a study and found that its best-performing teams were those in which members felt comfortable sharing ideas without fear of rebuke.
#2: Environment of Celebration
Many people have experienced growing up surrounded by people who pushed them to accomplish big feats without encouraging them to stop and celebrate small wins along the way. The job of a training professional is to teach people how to champion others. Enabling this simple but powerful shift can enable trainees to fully step into their potential as leaders, creators, innovators and change-makers and give significant momentum to any new initiative.
#3 Environment of Inclusion
Tying an innovation or change initiative into a company’s diversity and inclusion strategies makes good business sense. Most companies already have an internal talent pool they can draw from that can bring diverse ideas, backgrounds and experiences to the table. If employee retention is a concern, or you want to promote more female leaders, or you want to be able to increase market share by opening up business to diverse markets, creating an inclusive environment – where groups feel their contribution is valued – is key.
With any new initiative, the goal is to empower people. Instead of pushing trainees to change their thinking or open up to new avenues, involve them in designing and implementing change. Creating consensus and putting a strategic game plan in place using these three environments will set you up with a solid foundation for positive organizational change, innovation and company unity.