Human Centric Work Strategies to Boost Innovation

Human Centric Work Strategies to Boost Innovation

The movie Back to the Future describes the story of a professor who spent all his life doing extensive research work on traveling in time. He locked himself in his laboratory and built the time-travel machine (a racing car). Then, he started his experiments at nighttime so that other people would not see him. You know the rest of the story… That is the traditional thinking about human and innovation. Is it still applicable today though? Even for SpaceX, the research team and the corporation which pioneered the project, had their customers in mind; the spacecraft is meant to take passengers to outer space! Did they talk to the potential
customers when they were designing the spacecraft and building the whole navigation systems? How could they do that when they were to work from home (WFH) or in the laboratory?

Two months ago, our e-learning research and development team was doing an internal survey among our Executive Team members about what topics they should work on in the coming year, in view of the business needs of our customers. They gave the Executive Team a list of topics and asked the Executive Team to rank the priorities or their preferences. Finally, they decided on the “top 5 topics” that would work, based on the survey results That is “human-centric” but that is not “customer-centric”! I told the e-learning team that they should be talking to the customers and asking the customers about their business needs and training needs. Moreover, only certain training needs could be met by e-learning format.

The Design Thinking innovation process starts with dialogues with the customers, or users of the service and the product. Secondly, humans and innovation often come together through teamwork! In the experiential management game on “Building the fastest intranet” the teams of 10-14 people were asked to think of a way to transmit a message (a tennis ball) from the sender to the rest of the team through the intranet (throwing the ball from the sender to the other team members). When I asked the winning teams about how they got to their fastest solution, they always said that it was teamwork through trial-and error, and they were open to each other’s suggestions and feedbacks.

Under the pandemic situation, many companies follow their government’s social distance control policies by WFH arrangement. The challenge of work strategies is to promote dialogue among their staff with the customers and the other team members. Before the pandemic time, a technology company sent their R&D engineers to their customer’s sites to work with and talk to the users directly for an extensive period of time. Having understood the customers’ needs and requirements, the R&D people returned to their laboratories to work with their research teams on the solutions or products. Could such dialogues be facilitated in virtual interactions? How could we “see” what the customers see? How could we “hear” what the customers are really saying? The frontline leaders, client relationship managers, and the R&D engineers, must have strong communication skills and mindfulness throughout the dialogues with their customers in the virtual space. Moreover, they need to stay positive, energetic, focused, and well (physically and psychologically)! Your human centric work strategies must work towards those goals.

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