The productivity challenge and the continuing focus on innovation

You’ve heard it all by now, and you’re probably sick of hearing it too, that adage of how talent pools need to develop that beautiful and intangible skill of innovation.

Not only is it now absolutely essential for employees to innovate, but they need to dance that fine line with maintaining productivity as well.

In fact, it is now common that the word “productivity” and “innovation” are said in the same exalted breath.

And when you throw in the concept of social business and collaboration, well, now that’s just ambitious!

The truth is though that the world is rapidly changing around us.

There are tons of articles each month advocating the need to remain agile and move with the times.

What does this mean for our leaders?


In the Hay Group’s study into the 2013 Best Companies for Leadership, which Proctor & Gamble took the top prize this year by the way, the concept of the ambidextrous leader has emerged as THE leadership requirement for the future:

“A new type of leaders is emerging: people with exceptional levels of emotional intelligence combined with unparalleled cognitive competencies.

They are able to flex their use of power, influence and leadership style; making instantaneous switches in their approach so they can attend to operational issues or areas of innovation as the situation demands. Shunning the traditional ‘command-and-control’ style, they are change agents; building the necessary bridge between the core business and the new, emerging businesses that will secure the organization’s future.”


To further compound this, an article by McKinsey and Company called The Productivity Imperative, reiterates the dire need for growing talent that exhibit these ambidextrous skills:

“To complicate things further, we are seeing a growing talent mismatch. The Western economies have built a workforce optimized for mid-20th-century national industries, yet the jobs now being created are for 21st-century global ones—we need knowledge workers, not factory workers. And there just aren’t enough of the former. Anywhere. Companies across the globe consistently cite talent as their top constraint to growth.”

So with this increasingly dire outlook on the future, what can we as Organisational Development leaders do to help our organisational remain competitive?


It’s simply not good enough to say “be productive”, “be innovative” or even the more intangible “be collaborative”, especially when mammoth organisations slow to change are just not that agile.

To help me keep the focus on future proofing the organisation, I’ve come up with 3 quick questions when sense checking any initiative:

– How can we help our people understand innovation/ collaboration/ productivity

– How can we make them feel like it’s OK to be innovative/ collaborative/ productive

– How can we make them WANT TO be innovative/ collaborative/ productive

Huge questions, but when we get the answers right, the pay offs are huge.


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