The Power of the Individual in Innovation

The individual redefines the organisation, not the other way around. How many times have we heard how the organisation wants to innovate? Well, afraid to say, that’s impossible as it is the individuals that innovate.

Therefore, the way we should approach innovation is not through an organisational approach, but rather through an individual and individual team approach. What do I mean by this? Surely, for an organisation to be truly innovative, i.e. Apple, the organisation needs to be innovative. I don’t disagree that this is true, but the innovative aspects of these organisations does not come from the “organisation”, it comes from the individuals within it.

So, how do you make this happen? In my opinion, and based on my recent attempts in this area, it is a matter of finding that piece of passion in people’s minds. However, it starts with three key ingredients.

Firstly, the ingredient of accountability. This is critical, for individuals to feel the power to truly innovate, they need to feel accountable for what they are innovating. Accountability doesn’t mean watching as people fail and standing by to see them take the consequences. Accountability means providing them with the opportunities to succeed, and if they do happen to make a mistake or fail, then providing them with the support to correct the mistake / failure with confidence that the consequences are appropriately managed.

Secondly, the next ingredient is transparency. You need to lead by being transparent in your actions and showing everyone that being more open and visible in decision making provides a platform for allowing others to make decisions. Perhaps I should explain more. Essentially, transparency allows the individuals and the teams of individuals to see that by being more open with others, can provide better outcomes. In particular, it provides the platform for people to participate in things that perhaps they would normally not participate, or not feel comfortable adding their opinion.

And the final ingredient is engagement. Engagement is not just a matter of bringing people together but in bringing them together and encouraging them to participate. That does mean some people may not be as comfortable as they would normally be but taking people out of their comfort zone is part of expanding their horizons.

Through these aspects you will find that the individual becomes more aware of their ability to make things happen, to innovate, and most importantly, to actually engage and work with others through using the same three ingredients. Through these ingredients the organisation will then become a more innovative organisation, not the other way around, and this could lead your organisation being the next Apple.



Scott North has extensive experience in enterprise risk management, internal audit, operational risk and compliance, risk strategy, scenario planning, technology risk, technology business analysis, systems design, financial accounting, and management accounting. Scott is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Chartered Accountants with a Masters Degree from the University of Melbourne in Business and Information Technology. Scott is also a Fellow of the University of Melbourne.

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