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8 ways to release innovation through employee engagement

Published 27th January 2014 by IIP Scotland

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”

(Apocryphal quote attributed to Charles H. Duell of the US Patent Office)

Pleasingly, the above quote was never really uttered, and the vast rate of innovation and change has continued unabated through the 20th and 21st centuries. Current developments in healthcare, transport and IT would have been unthinkable only a decade ago, far less likely during the lifetime of Mr Duell (1850 – 1920).  At the core of many successful businesses is the ability to develop a new business idea or utilise a current idea in a new way; innovation.

Understanding the need for innovation is far from a new concept. Consider the following quote:-

“Our future progress and prosperity depend upon our ability to equal, if not surpass, other nations in the enlargement and advance of science, industry and commerce. To invention we must turn as one of the most powerful aids to the accomplishment of such a result.”

While this quote could easily have come from David Cameron or Barack Obama, it was stated by President William McKinley, President from 1987 until his death in 1901.

There are many drivers for organisations to become more innovative and these include:-

  • The bargaining power of suppliers
  • The bargaining power of customers
  • The threat of new entrants into the market
  • Links to the organisations values and strategy
  • Competitive rivalry within the sector

Having established the importance and necessity for an organisation to be innovative within their sector comes the hard part – being innovative!

When considered, there is now very little differential between organisations that sell similar products or services due to high levels of competition. The internet and telecommunications have made the globe very small, while start-up businesses can be run from a bedroom or garage.  The only thing that each company has that another does not, is their workforce.

As such it is imperative that an aspiring innovative company has a workforce that is able to innovate on their behalf.  But to have employees that are willing and able to innovate, it is also necessary that they are engaged with their employers values and vision.  There is a direct correlation between organisations that have more engaged employees and those that are more innovative.