Transforming HR – My 2013 Wishlist – #5: From Roadblocker HR to Innovative HR

Transforming HR – My 2013 Wishlist – #5: From Roadblocker HR to Innovative HR

This is part five of my 2013 wishlist for transforming HR. For the intro, check out Wish #1.

If you’re in HR and you have heard yourself saying “you can’t do that” or “that won’t work”, or just plain “no way”, chances are you are seen as a barrier to change, innovation and even engagement. I get it – often we are caught between a rock and a hard place – we want people to be treated fairly, and this translates into following a policy, a precedent, or ensuring everyone is treated equally. We want to protect the organization and the people within it. But doing this can actually reduce productivity, cause your high performers to feel like their work isn’t appreciated, and reduce accountability and innovation in your business. I see great potential in HR becoming innovative themselves and in helping to enable innovation within their organization.

That is why my fifth and final wish for transforming HR in 2013 is that we move from practicing Roadblocker HR to Innovative HR. Here are some tips to get started.

Practice Innovation Yourself.

According to, Innovation is:

1. something new or different introduced: numerous innovations in the high-school curriculum.
2. the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.
Try something new, or do something differently. It could be as simple as taking a different route to work, trying a new technology, or changing a regular meeting agenda around. Feeling braver? Brainstorm new ideas to improve productivity or customer experience and create a people program or training to support it. Imagine the concept of Google’s 20 percent time (where they can spend 20% of their time working on anything they choose, as long as it advances Google in some way) put to practice in HR. How would your team advance your organization if given the chance to practice innovative HR?

Schedule Reflection Time

This one is the biggest challenge for me personally. I almost constantly have at least 2 screens open and running, I’m answering emails and tweets on one and working in another. I love having lots to do, and work on a variety of projects every day. In the past, I used to schedule reflection time regularly, but it often fell prey to my drive for perfection, as I would use that time to add details and extras to things I was working on. The only reflection time I would get was when I was in the shower or awake at 3 am. A lot of great ideas come about for me during those times!

Now, in my own business, I am much more diligent about taking that time to think strategically, back away from the details of projects, and plan from several thousand feet. At the end of the day, it makes me much more effective and productive, and my clients benefit. If you are finding your best ideas are coming to you in the shower, it’s an indicator of the need for reflection time!

Get out of HR

I strongly believe that if you don’t understand the business, you can’t lead HR effectively. Innovation can come from connecting the dots between other functions and yours, seeing the way people interact and work in different areas, and sharing ideas with others. Schedule time “in the field” – in your plant, stores, or different business units. When you’re starting a new project, get a cross-functional team together to brainstorm first before getting stuck in “the way we do things” in HR. Talk to other business leaders – like your CIO – to find out what they know about agile work, lean thinking, project management and more. By spending time in other business areas and being open to different ways of thinking and doing things, you’ll start to find new methods to try yourself.

Instead of “no way”, ask “Why Not?”

When a Manager comes to you with an idea for a new position or for moving an employee onto a special project or recognizing someone for something unique, stop yourself before you jump to the reasons why that’s not fair. Instead, ask yourself “why not?”. Why not give a high performer a chance to work on a unique project? Why not create a new reward for someone whose idea was implemented and had great success? Why not allow someone to create anew job title if it means they will be more deeply engaged? If the answers are about equality and fairness across the organization, I challenge you to re-think that. High performers, in my mind, deserve recognition. And in fact, if you hold them back at the same standards as the status quo, you stand the risk of disengaging or losing them.

Play Games

My "Brain Profile" from Lumosity

There is a lot of research around the use of puzzles and games to train your brain for higher cognitive function. I think the different problems you come across while playing games helps you to be better at solving problems in real life and work. There is also a movement towards gamified and game-based learning today, both of which I think have tremendous potential in the corporate world. Try out Lumosity’s app for iPhone for a quick daily brain-energizer with a variety of games to challenge and activate different types of brain activity.

Innovation is critical to organization’s success. But it doesn’t lie within product development or an innovation function innovate. By transforming HR, both in how we work ourselves and in and how we manage the human resources of our organization, we can start to make a much larger impact on innovation.

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