Of course, we can increase our exports; there are sectors of our economy showing a huge amount of growth; and there are regions that are set to outperform others through initiatives such as City Deals. However, underlying these opportunities are some fundamental innovations that have the power to dramatically shape the growth of our future economy. Digital technology. Automation. Customer focus.
And they are inextricably linked. Digital technology is around us every day, everywhere in everything we do. At work and at play we carry it around in our pocket, we rely on it – in some cases have become addicted to it – and it drives our behaviours. In some ways it is revolutionising the way we work in other ways it could be creating a nation of introverts who prefer to remain desk bound than interact face to face with each other.
In our working lives one of the ways this is manifesting itself is through increased automation. Where once, people picked and packed products into boxes for shipment, these types of manual jobs are being automated. The Amazon Fulfilment Centre outside Dunfermline in Scotland is the biggest in the UK, the size of 14 football pitches – it still requires people yet there will be much automation inside those 1 million sq ft as they serve their customers.
The constant and instant availability of information about, well, anything, now means customers have more choice and a bigger voice than ever before. Think of the tourism industry. Now, even before we go on holiday we can get the unvarnished perspective on our destination from fellow travellers; and if promises aren’t delivered we can tell the world in real time. What this means for our economy to grow, is that we need to encourage and instill agility and responsiveness into the culture and structure of our businesses, recognising that the most important relationship is not the one between the CEO and their senior leadership team but the one between the person delivering the service or selling the product – and the customer.
In practice, to harness these innovations and ensure our economy truly thrives and prospers, we need to challenge the traditional organograms and hierarchies of power of which businesses are so proud. The opportunity for innovation, the opportunity for differentiation in an automation, digital economy and where the power lies is in those face to face, real time, interactions between people. Innovation comes not only from the Research & Development teams, it comes from every day work, encouraging people to experiment and try different ideas, understanding the perspective of people closest to the day to day delivery of our products and services. They are most often the real experts. As a result, for the UK to truly maximise innovation a reliance on traditional leadership methods won’t be sufficient.
Our approach to leadership has been less transformational than those revolutions occurring across working conditions, its approach to digital technology and to automation. It still largely conforms to the notion that leadership is about a small number of talented senior leaders directing junior followers towards a goal, a notion rooted in the heritage of the UK as a manufacturing led nation, when making people consistently complete repetitive tasks was king. Today we are an increasingly service driven economy. For our economy to truly thrive and grow we need to encourage our people to think, to innovate, to respond. Not just do their jobs.
As Professor Ewart Keep, Chair in Education, Training and Skills at Oxford University and Director of SKOPE says, “Innovation still essentially means more scientific research and knowledge transfer and nothing else. The place of workplace innovation or employee innovation in process and product remains entirely absent in official thinking, which puts us a very long way behind many of our [national] competitors who many years ago realised that incremental improvements were at least as important as the next ‘big science’ breakthrough (see Keep, 2016). For as long as we cling on to the outdated ‘science and science only’ model of innovation, our chances of becoming the most innovative economy are actually liable to be exceedingly slender”. So we believe, the answer lies in our people - our nation of brave, bold, adventurous, creative people with their diversity of skills, of experience and of thought.
In the uncertain times, one thing that we can truly focus on is creating a culture of inclusive innovation and growth. Who knows where it might lead? And that in itself is quite exciting.
Remarkable sees leadership potential in everyone. For nearly 30 years we have changed the way organisations think about their people to enable individuals, teams and organisation becomes successful leaders. Intent-Based Leadership is a new and unique leadership philosophy whose value lies in fundamentally challenging hierarchical perceptions of leadership with the belief that everyone – not just those at the top – can become a leader. Focusing on live work challenges, Remarkable has developed the philosophy into a practical and immediate delivery mechanism. Overlaying this with an organisation’s specific, individual challenges, Intent-Based Leadership creates an environment where everyone has more control over their work, is happy, healthy, engaged and is fully contributing.
Find out more about Intent-Based Leadership & its potential in your organisation
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