Education, Entrepreneurship, Projects

A New Innovation Strategy for the 21st-Century Workplace

March 28, 2019

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A few years back I picked up a copy of ‘The Lean Start-up‘, a best-selling book by Eric Ries. At the time, the lean movement had already gone viral. Lean start-ups were, and still are, practicing something called agile development, which originated in the software industry.

Agile development was revolutionary as it worked hand-in-hand with the customer. Unlike typical lengthy product development cycles that made assumptions or educated guesses about customers’ problems and product needs, agile development eliminated wasted time and resources by developing the product continually with the users. So, unlike a more traditional approach to software relied on meticulous and extensive planning, an agile approach allowed for high-quality, adaptive software to be developed by small teams using the principles of continuous design improvement and testing based on rapid feedback and change.

Nowadays, it is clear that these practices are not just for young silicon valley-type entrepreneurs. Agile development and project management have been adopted by larger corporations outside the software industry as a means to innovate faster.

At the same time, corporations have spent the past 20 years increasing their efficiency by driving down costs and adapting their business model. But simply focusing on improving existing business models, for example with new agile methods, is not enough anymore. Almost every company understands that it also needs to deal with ever-increasing external threats by continually innovating, and it is people who generate innovative ideas.

To ensure their survival and growth, corporations will need to re-imagine the workplace and the way we do business. This challenge will require revolutionary changes to organisational structures for companies and a new set of intrapreneurial skills for workers as corporations to move further beyond agile.

Also, rapid changes in social and economic life are calling for new and other so-called 21st Century Skills. The labor market has increased its interest in employees with entre- and intrapreneurial mindsets for mastering the tremendous competitions in various markets and staying ahead through innovation.

And as the workplace is evolving, then so should Higher Education, especially in Universities of Applied Sciences. There has been a shift in learning and development towards intrapreneurhip. A shift from well-organised knowledge and routinised activities towards competencies, skills and attitudes that the workplace demands.

Over the next 6 weeks, our group of students and coaches will visit a wide range of companies based in Helsinki culminating with a final trip to LEGO HQ in Copenhagen.

Personally, I’m interested in observing how the environment at these workplaces fosters creativity and intrapreneurial mindsets. But more so, I’m keen to understand the strategies larger corporations implement to harness their employees’ ability to continually innovate and how we, as students, can start to develop the skills we will need for tomorrow’s future.