Lack of trust undermines innovation

Firms fail to become leading edge innovators because they do not incorporate values of trust and passion into their strategies, according to an Innovation Survey on UK firms by Coopers & Lybrand.

Existing size and profitability are no guarantee of future success, the survey says, and myths that small firms develop more innovative products than larger firms are simply not true.

What impacts innovation are ideas, culture and people. Employees need to be able to trust people in leadership and be passionate about their work.

“High performers recognise that everybody in the firm has got something to offer to build the future of the business,” said Trevor Davis, service development leader, Creativity and Innovation at Coopers & Lybrand.

“In high performers, supervisors will ask everybody for ideas on the company and deal with frustrations immediately, whereas in low performers they will probably have forms for employees to fill in, and in a few months the ideas will be dropped.”

The survey found that within the top 20 per cent of high performing companies, which had come up with innovative products over the last five years, it was the people who allowed passion to flourish who made the difference.

“We found that leaders spread responsibility for decision making across more shoulders in their organisations,” said Davis. “They devolve decision making as far as they can, so that people can respond very low in the organisation in quicker time.”

According to Davis, firms that demonstrate this type of behaviour have reward and recognition processes in place that allow new ideas to be heard and work to be rewarded.

“The classic low performer firm thinks that it is only the boss and the pseudo boffins who can contribute to new ideas to the business,” he said.

“When firms allow employees to talk about their passions they find that they often have the same visions, and aims.

“If the office is silent, there is no creativity, if people are having fun then they are being creative,” he said.

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