Carve Out Time for Innovation If You Truly Want It to Happen, New Report Says

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"While 64% of workers say their workplace regularly asks employees to think of how they can do things in a completely new way, a full 58% say they're so swamped with getting day-to-day work done that they don't have time to think beyond their daily to-do list."


That's from the new State of Work Report, in its fifth year from a company called Workfront. And it rings so true. Most of us are all in on innovation, but other than setting aside specific time to brainstorm or attend events or just write down new ideas, so many of us have daily routines that are hard to change.

Workfront surveyed more than 2,000 knowledge workers in the U.S. and more than 2,000 workers in the UK to better understand current views on work. They came up with seven recommendations that we can SIPAfy a bit

1. Improve your productivity by spending more time on your primary tasks. "Our data shows that emails and pointless meetings topped the list of things that keep knowledge workers from getting work done. ...We say we spend only 40% of our workday on primary tasks." They suggest listing your activities for the day and seeing what can be put aside—as well as shorter meetings, unsubscribing to some emails and new work tools.

2. Deliberately carve out time for innovation. I recall some publishing leaders telling me that every Friday they take a drive to try to think about new initiatives. I've also written here about no-Meetings Wednesdays—maybe an innovation hub can take its place. I often go back to this quote from innovation program director Bill Fischer: "Innovativeness thrives with discipline. The most innovative groups typically rely upon processes to ensure that their craziness is best-expressed."

3. Check in with your colleagues. "Our report found that 86% of us don't have a clear sense of what our colleagues are working on. In addition, we consistently rank ourselves as the most productive employees at work—ahead of co-workers and even more ahead of company leadership." The continued melting of silos should help this along. They also write that "you'll also be better able to celebrate success and accomplishments, which will in turn improve employee morale."

4. Help your team find purpose. "On average, we say that 61% of the work we do matters to us personally, with Baby Boomers being more likely than Millennials to say so (67% vs. 53%)." But in other studies I've seen, young people talk about the importance of a mission or having a purpose or effecting change, be it the environment, social betterment or just contributing to the greater good.

5. Embrace automation. Almost 90% of U.S. workers believe that the rise of automation will help us think of work in new and innovative ways. "Still, the landscape is changing quickly, as 48% of workers say they know people who have already lost jobs because of automation." I saw one article where an employer was rewarding people for working less, meaning they were incorporating more AI into their jobs. Says the report: "If you're a leader, train your employees in new skill sets that will get them ahead of the technology curve and keep them as genuine contributors to your business."

6. Find digital tools to manage modern work. Just over half of respondents say they're not using a work management tool but would like to. Yet, few people (4%) say they're looking for more data. "Instead, they say they're drowning in data." Data analysts are becoming more and more prevalent for publishers. In many cases, it's more about analyzing the data you have than getting more.

7. Prepare for the future of work. Analyze tradeoffs before fully committing, the report urges. And we might have to adapt how we measure success—as mentioned above with the advent of AI. "Only 34% of U.S. workers believe that within 5 years their company will be able to track almost all work that is being done in the company, and even fewer believe they'll be able to see how their work tracks to their company's strategic initiatives (26%) or the bottom line (24%)." Be transparent in this area.


Download it here.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…