Remote working due to the pandemic has unearthed hidden talent, Allègre Hadida of Cambridge Judge Business School says in a new global innovation report.
Remote working prompted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has unearthed previously hidden talent that organisations can tap for innovation – in particular, knowledge workers, Allègre Hadida, Associate Professor in Strategy at Cambridge Judge Business School, says in a new report by the HLB global network of independent advisory and accounting firms.
The report – Powering Your Innovation Engine: HLB Survey of Business Leaders 2022 – found that talent is a focal point of innovation for many leaders, and the pandemic “has opened our eyes to the existence of this hidden pool of amazing talent, that due to obliviousness or ignorance, we didn’t know even existed”, Allègre says in the report.
The survey of 586 business leaders found that they expressed high levels of confidence in their ability to innovate as compared to pre-pandemic levels, but levels of optimism “are more moderate when it comes to the leaders’ assessment of their talent capabilities, as well as financial means to fund innovative projects,” says a Foreword to the report by Marco Donzelli, CEO of the HLB network, who is an MBA alumnus (MBA 2009) of Cambridge Judge and a member of the School’s Alumni Council. The HLB network comprises nearly 33,000 professionals across 159 countries.
Yet funding can perhaps be used as an excuse by business leaders struggling to innovate, Allègre says in the report. “There are so many amazing examples across sectors and around the world of frugal innovation, doing more with less,” she says, such as restaurants that opened temporary outdoor “pop-outs” during the pandemic.
“Innovation comes from within organisations, in the sense that you need to create this culture of serendipity, this culture of openness to allow innovation to happen within the organisation”, says Allègre, who adds that workplace routines can be a “force of inertia” that leads to “bad organisational habits that are very hard to break”.
Business leaders can battle such inertia and resistance to change by “creating a fully embedded temporary organisation, like a project group, that is separate from the rest of the organisation,” she says, because this allows them to explore ideas “outside of the normal remit” of a firm. Allègre explored the topic of “The Temporary Marketing Organization” in a previous article in the Journal of Marketing.
Technology is not necessarily critical to innovation, Allègre says in the report, as innovation is “not just confined to marketable products and services” but can instead entail the way firms organise or manage people. “There’s so many different nodes in the value chain where we can innovate, without this being immediately visible to the final consumer.”