Are your people and organisation ready for digital innovation? from Eduard Iacob's blog

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Are your people and organisation ready for digital innovation?

What digital innovation means for your business

Digital technologies promise to transform productivity, remove waste and eliminate repetitive work through the rational organisation of production and service delivery.

The promise of digital technologies

  • The application of information and communication technology (ICT) to digitise information and integrate systems af all stages of product creation and use (including logistics and supply), both inside companies and across company boundaries.
  • Cyber-physical systems that use ICTs to monitor and control physical processes and systems.
  • Network communications including wireless and internet technologies that link machines, work products systems and people.
  • Simulation, modelling and virtualisation in the design of products and the establishment of manufacturing processes.
  • Collection of vast quantities of data, and their analysis and exploitation, either immediately on the factory floor, or through big data analysis and cloud computing.
  • Greater ICT-based support for human workers, including robots, augmented reality and intelligent tools.

European Parliamentary Research Service

Yet research evidence and practical experience alike suggest that improvements in productivity will be achieved mainly by enhancing human labour through digital assistance rather than replacing it. In short, organisations are unlikely to achieve a full return on investment unless technological innovation and human factors are considered together.

The key concept here is Workplace Innovation, initially created for the European Commission and now practiced in organisations across Europe. Workplace Innovation is an evidence-based means of achieving high performance simultaneously with a fully engaged and healthy workforce. It empowers employees at every level to contribute to business improvement and product or service innovation, as well as performing their functional tasks in the best possible way.It creates an organisational culture in which digital technologies are embraced, and their benefits maximised through the best possible synergy with human potential.

Plotting the Digital Roadmap

Analysis of successful and unsuccessful cases of digital innovation shows that there are overlapping decision areas which profoundly affect the outcome. The Workplace Innovation approach is firmly grounded in evidence and experience, helping you to create a roadmap that mobilises knowledge and insights from across your workforce, thereby securing sustainable solutions and best possible returns on investment.

Embed employee-driven innovation and improvement in the DNA of the organisation

Establishing regular opportunities for employees at all levels to think creatively, to contribute their ideas, to experiment, and to work collaboratively with others on ideas for innovation and improvement creates a workforce culture receptive to digital innovation and enhances readiness for change.

Build an overview of the production/service delivery process and its relationship to the wider organisation

Incremental innovations run the risk of unintended consequences elsewhere or being undermined by interdependent practices in the organisation. Creating a system of aligned and mutually reinforcing practices enhances outcomes and helps prevent innovation decay.

Be clear about what you want to achieve

Digital technologies are only a means to an end. Their introduction must be driven by, and fully aligned with, the organisation’s strategic goals and imperatives. Having defined, and even quantified specific outcomes from the changes sought to achieve strategic objectives, what is the best way of achieving them?

Maximise the synergies between human and technological potential

Digital technologies can release frontline employees and managers for higher value activities including enhanced customer service, devolved planning and decision-making, maintenance, and continuous improvement.

Case examples show contrasting approaches to digitalisation with very different consequences for employees. In the ‘low road’ approach, operators are marginalised and their skills devalued, while control of the technology migrates to a highly paid technical stratum or to expensive external consultants. Operational departments become dependent on others for adaptations, improvements, bug-fixing and even routine maintenance, usually at significant cost to their budgets and diminishing their capacity for learning and future innovation.

The ‘high road’, on the other hand, configures technology to decentralise control to operators and stimulate (formal and informal) knowledge acquisition and experiential learning. Frontline workers gain enhanced job autonomy and span of control, creating powerful conditions for employee-driven innovation and improvement. The potential for delegation also facilitates the creation of flatter organisational structures.

Engage operators and others whose work is affected by the technology in implementation

Day-to-day involvement in the production and delivery of a product or service creates tacit knowledge about ‘what works’, building on the cumulative learning and experience from both successes and failures. Operators are often the ‘organisational memory’; they acquire an innate capacity for creative problem solving and provide a valuable resource beyond that of technical manuals and standard operating procedures, both in day-to-day operations and during innovations. Engaging operators and stakeholders at every stage of implementation avoids errors that may remain undetected by technical experts alone, and may stimulate unexpected process innovations and improvements.

Upskill people

Technical skills involved in the ‘high road’ implementation of digital technologies may be acquired through both formal and informal means during the planning and implementation stages of digital innovation. Realising the full synergy between human and digital potential also requires the development of wider business and self-efficacy skills, for example:

  • Planning and scheduling to support delegated decision-making
  • Communication skills
  • Collaborative skills to support self-managed teamworking
  • Creative thinking skills to support problem solving and employee-driven innovation
  • Emotional intelligence and self-awareness.

Join the Digital Advantage Innovation Consortium

When companies work together, they create collaborative advantage by fast tracking successful innovation. They share ideas and experiences of ‘what works’ and solve problems as a team.

The Digital Advantage Innovation Consortium will:

  • Focus on the potential of digital technologies for transforming business performance and on building organisational, cultural and workforce readiness for digital innovation.
  • Share good practice cases of digital innovation from across Europe, including speakers from leading companies.
  • Identify practical steps, including tools and resources for making change happen.
  • Create a supportive community of change leaders and facilitators, sharing problems and solutions from experiences in their own companies.
  • Combine personal learning and development with real innovations in each company.

In summary, the programme includes:

  • The Workplace Innovation Diagnostic®, an employee survey which will assess your organisational and workforce readiness for digital innovation and identify detailed priorities for action.
  • Seven highly interactive, expert-led Workshops exploring the digital, organisational and workforce dimensions of change, drawing on international evidence and experience.
  • Expert and company practitioner speakers, sharing evidence of leading practice in Europe.
  • Action learning sets, a forum for peer-to-peer support, sharing problems and successful practices.
  • In house coaching, facilitation and support for digital, organisational and workforce readiness.
  • A repeat Diagnostic after 12 months, enabling you to celebrate progress and identify priorities for subsequent action.

The programme involves two people from each organisation, both of whom should have a role in enabling or stimulating change. For each person it will involve no more than 8 days off-site over a 12 month period, combined with 2 days on-site facilitation, coaching and advice. The programme will also be supported by online interaction and bespoke e-learning resources via a closed Lab on the Fresh Thinking Labs platform.

Each of the eight sessions will be hosted by a member company, offering further opportunities to learn from each other.

DAIC offers a unique opportunity, combining the technological expertise of Booth Welsh with Workplace Innovation Europe’s organisational and people-centred knowledge and experience.

To discuss how the Digital Advantage Innovation Consortium can help your organisation, please contact Dr Peter Totterdill, Director, Workplace Innovation Europe or Martin Welsh, Managing Director, Booth Welsh.

Or Register here We expect a high demand for places so please book early!

Very privileged to be able to see and hear what others are doing to drive innovation forward through engaging their workforce.

A hugely informative and interactive session, great examples of how different organisations innovate with real working case studies.

This session allowed me to gain an appreciation of the softer aspects and workforce related considerations necessary to commence the digital transformation.

Some of the positive feedback from our 13th June taster workshop at Booth Welsh:

Get in Touch

Interested to learn more? Fresh Thinking Labs is the international platform for company networking and workplace innovation, On Line  and In Person:

Please contact us for further information!