Innovators do not view their endeavors as a means to stock options, a promotion or retirement package. It is the vision, the big lightbulb, as well as a sense of integrity and self-respect, that entrepreneurs strive for each day.
While it should be obvious that human talent is the most important ingredient for true innovation, many organizations struggle with and cannot seem to shake a business outlook that views people as interchangeable parts or as mere job descriptions. As organizations dance around and debate the issue of how employees should be esteemed and treated, few innovative souls will suffer waiting for someone to appreciate their value. There are too many great opportunities out there. Besides, innovators do not necessarily want or need what organizations have to offer, and we can make ourselves available where we feel most capable of doing our best and most inspired work.
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Many organizations, whether they know it or not, will do a lot of things to hurt innovation and drive away talented people. Aside from bad management practices, organizations often do not appreciate that important things can occur outside of a lab, and that innovation is much more than the big ideas put into the world by software engineers, scientists, and others commonly deemed as gurus.
More often than not, management fails to see that true innovation comes from many small, well-executed ideas that turn into great products and services for real people.
Few organizations develop so much as a sketch of the people that they have hired. This is especially true when an employee chooses to voluntarily leave the group. In fact, according to the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Human Capital Benchmarking database, the annual employee turnover rate averages 15 percent across industries. Why is no effort made to understand and address all of the people that are leaving? If sales or revenues were down 15 percent, studies and initiatives would be launched left and right. But a huge number of talented people, among them key drivers of millions of dollars in potential innovation? Oh, yes, pay no attention, that's just business as usual.
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Organizations really need to reexamine their management attitudes and practices within a new and more sophisticated framework of innovation. It is important that everyone actively seek out and support the human agents of innovation through, not only the best practices of good management, but also creative initiatives aimed toward innovation at all levels of the business. Assuming a degree of mutual trust and respect has been properly developed, when good people get ready to leave, organizations need to step up their efforts to maintain some sort of ongoing relationship.
A much broader, more human-centered framework for innovation may take on many forms, but could include a range of opportunities to have departing talent on the hook as speakers or mentors within a group. There should also be incentives to build joint ventures with the most entrepreneurial of the bunch, including seed money for new enterprises that feed into market niches of the organization's endeavors.
The key is to keep the innovation flowing and to cultivate success for everyone by getting rid of old-fashioned barriers to collaborative relationships. New opportunities to build and hold onto entrepreneurial connections will ensure a burst of innovative spirit across the more self-aware organization.