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Adopting Innovation As A Mindset, Not Just Another Initiative

April 27th, 2023 | 5 min. read

Adopting Innovation As A Mindset, Not Just Another Initiative


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This article distills key insights from Season 1, Episode 4 of True Understanding, a podcast that explores the strategies shaping workplaces of tomorrow.

In a recent interview with Remco van Riet, we got the chance to talk to him about his new book, “Innolation,” which focuses on innovation and revelations in both the workplace and personal life. Remco, who has decades of experience as an innovation manager, shared his insights and principles that emphasize the mindset of innovation and the joy of experimentation. His book aims to help individuals navigate organizational shifts and changes in the workplace while embracing the process and enjoying the surprises along the way.

Experimentation and Enlightenment

Remco explained that the term "innolation" is a word he coined himself, combining "innovation" with "revelation." He described it as "experimenting with new ideas" and finding "enlightened surprises." The book highlights the concept of experimentation and how it can lead to new insights, emphasizing the joy of trying new things and allowing the surprise to inspire us.

Change Is An Opportunity

How employees deal with changes in workplace structures is greatly affected by team dynamics. Remco shared his perspective on this, stating, "I think it's important to approach organizational shifts with an open mindset of experimentation and embracing the process. Change can be challenging, but when we see it as an opportunity to try new things and be surprised, it can be a positive experience."

With the shift towards remote work due to the pandemic, employees have gained more autonomy, but it has also blurred the boundaries between work and personal life, leading to challenges in managing work-life balance. Finding that balance in this new world is still a feat that individuals are trying to figure out. Leadership styles play into this as there has been a change in how people want to be led in their day-to-day work.

The evolving needs of workers require that leadership’s attitudes evolve as well. It is vital that managers and leaders identify the individual needs of their team members as there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

On the other hand, employees also need to be more vulnerable in expressing their needs. To illustrate this, Remco mentions an example of wanting to work out in the afternoon for increased productivity later in the day.

This shift requires more open communication between employees and managers about personal life and work preferences and expectations. Remco also discussed the flexibility needed in times of uncertainty, like the pandemic, where strategies need to be pliable and adapted on a day-to-day basis. 

Instead of waiting for other companies to take the lead, he suggests actively testing assumptions, engaging with end users and specialists, and reaching out to the market to find answers. Embracing continuous change and being proactive, rather than passive, is crucial in navigating the evolving landscape.

One thing he finds interesting is how a leader is to adapt to this changing landscape and embraces innovation as a mindset rather than just another initiative. It requires leaders to be open to new ideas, encourage experimentation, and create an environment where employees feel empowered to share their thoughts and suggestions without fear of judgment or retribution.

Empathy In Leadership

In addition to fostering open communication, Remco emphasizes the importance of empathy in leadership. He believes that leaders need to understand the individual needs and motivations of their team members and create a supportive environment where employees feel valued, respected, and heard. This involves actively listening to their concerns, providing feedback and guidance, and showing empathy toward their challenges and aspirations.

He encourages leaders to embrace failure as a learning opportunity rather than a setback. In his book, he shares his own experiences of failures and how they have contributed to his growth and learning. He highlights that failure is a natural part of the innovation process and should be celebrated as a stepping stone to success.

Furthermore, Remco stresses the importance of collaboration and diversity in innovation. Diverse teams with different backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets are more likely to come up with creative solutions and breakthrough ideas. In his book, he shares practical tips on how leaders can foster a culture of collaboration and inclusivity in their organizations, such as creating cross-functional teams, promoting diversity in hiring and promotion decisions, and encouraging open and respectful discussions.

Regarding the issue of risk aversion in organizations, he believes that fear of failure and resistance to change are some of the key barriers to innovation. Leaders need to create a safe space where employees feel comfortable taking risks, challenging the status quo, and experimenting with new ideas. This involves celebrating and rewarding innovative efforts, even if they do not always result in success, and creating a culture where failure is seen as an opportunity to learn and improve.

A Growth Mindset Wins

Remco emphasized the need for continuous learning and skill development in the innovation process. In today's rapidly changing world, employees need to constantly update their skills and knowledge to stay relevant. Leaders need to invest in sustained learning programs, provide opportunities for skill development, and create a culture of curiosity and continuous improvement.

In addition to organizational changes, he emphasized the importance of personal growth and self-reflection in the innovation process. Individuals need to cultivate a growth mindset, be open to new experiences, and reflect on their own biases and limitations. This involves being self-aware, seeking feedback from others, and continuously challenging one's own assumptions and beliefs.

Remco also addressed the issue of work-life balance in the context of innovation. He believes that employees need to find a balance between work and personal life to sustain their well-being and creativity. Leaders need to create a supportive environment where employees can have flexible work arrangements, take breaks, and prioritize self-care based on clear goals and expectations.

The conversation wraps with Remco explaining that decisions need to be made using the right tech coupled with good insight into the needs of people in order to find the right balance. 

Listen to the full episode and other True Understanding episodes here:


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