As I was changing jobs, many people asked me what HR has to do with Innovation and how is it that I chose to take such big turn in my career. There is a lot to talk about on the subject and, hopefully, I’ll manage shed some light in rows below.
First, some context
In a world with more than 250.000 new products launched per year (according to Forbes), the phrase “we need to innovate” has become a sort of mantra, the dream, but also the fear of most CEOs. It drives them to analyse their companies, their projects and the money they spend on R&D. This, inevitably, leads them to ask themselves: Why aren’t we more creative? What are the capabilities our people are missing? Why don’t we dare take more risks? Unfortunately, when they do take risks, Forbes highlights that the “typical failure rate of new product launches can be anywhere in the 85% to 95% range”. Naturally, we wonder why does this happen.
Talking to a large number of CEOs from different industries, I found out that managers think innovation is not their business. They believe innovation should happen behind closed doors, in some high-tech or SF lab. Moreover, they bring fancy consultants who work somewhere far from the business, following some cryptic methodology, and that have no connection to what is happening in the company or with its employees.
Innovation is closer to home that companies think
So, why isn’t this the best idea? Well, because innovation only happens when we are able to answer a simple question: what can we do to make the life of our customers better? And to go even further: who knows the customers best? Who talks to them on a daily basis and knows their unique features and flaws? Who knows the struggles behind the supply chain and answers customer complaint? You guessed right: the company’s employees. Yes, they are the people who spend at least a third of their lives working directly with the product or the service throughout its entire life cycle.
However, and this is a concerning issue, companies often choose not to talk them when it comes to innovation. They bring in external resources or they leave the task solely to their R&D teams who rarely meet the customer. No wonder that the invention generated by them hardly produce a spark in the hearts of the other employees. They can’t relate to the new products or services, thus can’t convincingly sale them to the customer, hence the risk of failure.
That it’s so important to take existing employees on board to creating new products and services. They have to feel a part of the project, be happy they were involved and contributed to its creation, a vibe that will translate to the final customer.
Innovation is a “people business”. So is HR.
As you can see, so many aspects of innovation rely on people and leadership. We can then safely say innovation is a “people business”! And I personally love this business! This is why I decided to use my HR experience in a different way, trying to crack the code that leads to a more innovative corporate world.
Here is where FORTH methodology came into place and sealed my future as an innovation facilitator. Their courses gave me the answers to most people related innovation questions and the mechanisms to help internal teams drive the innovation process. More than 40 companies in Europe have used FORTH to kick-start their innovation efforts, varying from big organizations like 3M and Novartis to mid-size companies like Eska or Bruil and even NGOs.
I am now the first FORTH certified facilitator in Romania. Through a well-structured process and with an internal team, I help organizations verbalize their innovation focus, meet the customers and explore their frictions, ideate, create new concepts, test them with customers and, in the end, come up with 3-5 mini business cases for new products or services that are commercially, operationally and financially feasible.
My years of being a HR Manager in large corporations have given me the privilege to work with many diverse groups, putting their energy and creativity to work and getting them committed on different topics. I learned that most people find the answers when their surrounding environment allows them to dream, when managers trust their competence and when curiosity is supported with opportunities to explore. I have now translated all those skills in facilitating innovation for companies from the inside. I am the humble guide in their innovation expedition, knowing the map and having a survival kit called FORTH.
After a whole year as an innovation facilitator and working with several international companies, I’m happy to say that I believe I’ve made the right decision and my journey is just starting. And I invite you to join me on the road to discovering what innovation is really all about.