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Innovating Innovation

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Taming paradoxical creativity for business success

Otrazhenie


Creative_mind__by_Uribaani
From DeviantArt

Creativity is the common theme that drives both entrepreneurs and artists alike. But creative people are often also paradoxical and full of contradictions.

Eminent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that creative people ‘contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.’

Mihaly describes ten traits often contradictory in nature, that are frequently present in creative people. In Creativity, Mihaly outlines these:

 1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.
 They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm.

 2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.
“It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of…

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Germany – industrial & industrious

germany_flag_flying_500_wht_513Having just got back from Munster in Germany I read with interest the Sunday Times In Focus piece this week “So how did Germany become the new champion of Europe?

The reporter was based in Bestwig, about an hour from Munster in Westphalia, a region where, according to the strap line, firms thrived because of innovation and good labour relations.

Citing VW as the world’s most profitable car company, German football teams dominating the Champions League whilst being mainly supporter-owned (and with the lowest ticket prices but largest attendances in Europe), and workers enjoying pay rises, Germany clearly stands out in the EU.

The essence of the report was that when the UK was creating wealth through super-banks and light touch financial regulation and the US was into dot.coms, Germany stuck with its industrial roots and engineering excellence. At the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies they put it down to Germany’s history and culture as much as the way the economy is managed.

Old- fashioned it might have seemed sticking with its industrial heritage, employers having obligations to the workforce and the community (imagine that!) and unions and employees having the right to influence decisions and sit on the board. But it’s turned round Germany’s fortunes since the 1990s when it was called the “sick man of Europe” and was dealing with re-unification.

There is also the tradition of Mittelstand companies, similar to our SMEs but with up to 500 employees, often family owned, and specialising in high quality products. In fact across all companies competing on quality seems to have been a more important consideration than price.

Sennheiser the audio company is a good example of these type of businesses which employ 70% of the workforce and over 80% of apprenticeships with strong links to the communities. They typically give grants to send apprentices to university so they can go back to the company when they graduate and also provide in-house education.

Competition from cheap labour has put a premium on quality and innovation and it seems to have paid off. There is also the respect for craftsmanship and engineers which we have largely lost in the UK. And our relationship with Trades Unions is different from what happens in Germany.

When I was in Munster I visited the BASF coatings factory nearby in Munster-Hiltrup with a group of Work and Organisational psychologists (I remember buying BASF audio-tapes back in the day, now they produce high quality paint finishes for cars).

P1010013There we learnt about the way workers are employed in teams of 10-16 like autonomous working groups. They have a group coach appointed by management and a group speaker (Gruppesprecher) selected by the employees. Twice a year they all sit round together and agree which targets and objectives they have achieved and these are presented to management. The workers are awarded bonuses as a team so they rely on the group process and peer pressure to motivate all members of the team to contribute.

They also use IDEA management to produce innovatory ideas. At the plant I visited they had 40,000 suggestions a year from the 4,000 plus staff of which 20,000 were acted upon. All the teams are given an hour each week to discuss these ideas.

In addition there are spaces for meetings in the now disused parts of the plant  which have been renovated for this purpose including an outside In Forum area for meetings where this photograph was taken.

I wrote previously about how German company BMW had dealt with an ageing workforce. It’s just another example that shows that collaboration between management, unions, and employees can work in effective and positive ways.

Employee Engagement – what’s the real picture?

I read in HR magazine that employee engagement was up in 2011 from 56% to 58% world-wide.

I was surprised to see these figures as most others I’ve seen over the last couple of years suggest that employee engagement and trust in leaders is at an all-time low.

This survey came from a compensation and talent management company’s survey of 3,100 organisations representing almost 10 million employees world-wide.

There were regional variations; Europe up 1% to 52%, Latin America down 1% (but still highest at 71%), North America unchanged at 64%, Asia-Pacific region up 3%.

Broadly employee perception improved in 3 areas: effective leadership at unit/division level was up from 54% to 61%; people & HR practices creating a positive work environment up from 47% to 53%; and perceiving relationships with customers as rewarding up from 70% to 75%.

But employee perception also declined in 3 areas: effective communications was down from 46% to 42%; innovation down from 55% to 52%; and workplace safety and security down from 78% to 75%.

So what do you make of this? Is the sample size truly representative? Who did the researchers ask? Were the organisations surveyed clients of the consultancy? H as there really been an increase in employee engagement during the recession?

A representative of the consultancy said more needed to be done to retain top talent as the economy recovers and; “Our research shows that organisations with higher engagement have significantly higher total shareholder return than the average company, so organisations that focus on what matters most in connecting employees to their work will emerge as leaders ….”

Source: http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk