Innovation is “personally expensive”. I realised that after seeing an incredible keynote by Dr Brené Brown, an incredible woman who has spent her life and career studying shame and vulnerability and its effects on people. Brent is quite a woman – she has a Ted Talk that went viral and has had 6 million views at the time of me writing this. And when I met her in July 2015 she had three separate books in the new York Times Top 10 Bestsellers list. yes that’s right – one woman had 30% of the NY Times Bestsellers list – quite incredible.
Brené is well known in the US but not well known at all in the UK or Australia, which is more the pity as she talks some incredible sense and shares insight t hat literally captivated Reward Gateway’s entire leadership team (we all saw her together at the amazing Hubspot 2015 Inbound conference)
So, how did I get to my thinking about employee engagement and innovation?
Innovation is personally expensive, so it demands engaged employees to deliver it.
When someone suggests a change, improvement or innovation – whether it be about a product, service or internal process, they are putting themselves in a vulnerable position. They’re putting their hand up and saying “I think there’s a better way we could do this”. It’s a vulnerable position because they might be laughed at, they might be told they are wrong, they might be prevented from doing it or worse – they might be allowed to do it whilst everyone thinks it won’t work. And then they have to deal with the shame of failing and failing in a public way.
So when you think about true innovation – making changes that may or may not work (any innovation that has no chance of failure by definition can’t be a true stretch) then you see that the only people who would put themselves in that position regularly would be engaged employees – those people who feel a genuine connection to the organisation and genuinely want the organisation to succeed. If you were disengaged, if you didn’t genuinely care about the organisation then why on earth would you put yourself in that position?
And through Brené’s work I’ve realised that if you really want to foster a culture of innovation and creativity, you have to create a culture of employee engagement and also you have to create a culture where people can talk about and own the feelings of vulnerability and shame that happens when things don’t work out as you hoped.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change” – Brené Brown
Brené Brown: “Listening to Shame”
This was the talk that really kickstarted Brene’s public career. Recorded and published in March 2012, it soon went viral garnering 6 million views. I’d urge you to watch it, and if you get the chance to see her live, jump at it. And if you are lucky enough to hear her tell the story of her husband Steve in the Lake then you’ll be very fortunate indeed! It’s wonderful. if you like this video, just google Brené Brown; you’ll find lots more.