We recently launched the Hargraves Innovator Awards, which uses our Innovation Mindset approach to recognise people who have contributed to innovation at work.
That means that a good part of my day is spent talking to people about what they are most proud of in their working lives. It’s a rare privilege and I’ve learned a lot about innovators.
I chat to people who’ve changed our world in significant ways, for example, dramatically reducing, and probably eradicating, HIV infections by 2020; making train travel safer and easier; introducing new ways to interact with government services; and creating tasty items from food produce rejected by retailers.
And it’s not only the big stories ― I hear from people who have worked in their own time to make the workplace safer for their teams, or changed the way the organisation makes decisions, or improved email etiquette to improve team communications.
Not only do I hear their stories, but the innovators tell me how they did it… how they overcame the struggles and delays, the barriers and failures… about their bravery, resilience and tenacity.
I hear about what they actually contributed, whether they were the ideas person, the doer or the person with the insight, the connections or the influence to make the idea a reality. They tell me what they learnt, how they used skills and tools, and what they want to learn in the future.
Most importantly they tell me why they do it and, even when the going gets tough, why they keep going. The motivations may vary, but the power of their beliefs is always the driving force that makes the ideas reality.
These talented people are often shy talking about themselves. They’re always quick to acknowledge others and find it hard to claim their own successes. But with a little prompting and by asking the right questions they open up. When their story is written, and they receive their Hargraves Innovator Award, the innovators often write a thank you note.
Telling stories is not only good for communications and marketing, it improves culture and employee engagement. Very often it’s the first opportunity these innovators have to reflect on the whole project and their contribution to it. Talking about it gives them insights that they haven’t had before. Focussing on what they did highlights their strengths and builds confidence. It also motivates them to do it again and get better.
Multiple stories from the one organisation reveal truths about the culture ― patterns emerge that indicate how employees think, the behavioural norms, the conventions of management, the enablers and barriers to innovating. Leaders can use the stories to change the culture. They better understand the employee experience and learn what’s working and what they need to improve. The stories inspire others, promote innovation, capture value and enhance the brand inside and out.
Above all, recognising and celebrating the innovators who’ve told their stories not only makes them proud, but also encourages others and flags that an innovation mindset is really valued in this organisation.