Why innovation does not help when we are busy … or is it?

13 April 2018

By Luitenant-kolonel Raimond Neuteboom, Commandant Sector Kennis at Koninklijke Marechaussee – Ministerie van Defensie, IDCP* participant 2017-2018


Busy is a buzzword. If you work at an organization and you say that you are not busy, you will not be taken seriously. There is too little capacity and we do not have time to think about doing it differently or to innovate and experiment, because it takes extra time and capacity. We are busy with the reorganization and busy to make our own spot.

As a manager, busy is also a status and a certain form of indispensability and importance. But are we busy or are we doing busy? And what sort of things are we busy with? And to what extent do we put the pressure of being busy on ourselves?

The same applies for “must”. We must be ahead of the competition, otherwise we will go bankrupt. We must achieve deadlines, otherwise our boss will be angry. Projects must be a succes, otherwise it has consequences for our career. We must keep our finger on the pulse with our employees, because imagine that they’re heading in the wrong direction. On the other hand, we also consider that it is important to leave the individual and entrepreneurship free. And yes, we must innovate. And we describe it …

Are “busy” and “must” contradictory with innovation? Do we have a culture to innovate in our company? The pressure from outside is there, but it does not lead immediately to innovation. After all, we are good in doing our business and we are following social, political and commercial environment and,  if necessary, we take care of new developments. Our company bankrupt? In recent years we have only grown and the future is rosy. Is innovation urgent enough to lead the way?

Population of a company is often diverse, so there should be a good base for (social) innovation. And yes indeed, we have people with different competences and backgrounds: young and old, low and highly educated, staff and operational etc. On the other hand, we put the same kind of people together. Our hierarchical organization is structured in such a way that it strengthens the solidarity and culture.

Besides, we aren’t so diverse: we’re strictly selected and most of us are thinking “blue” (from the ratio). Procedures give us safety and we think that rules are there for a reason. Creative and innovative? We have not selected any colleagues for the art academy!

Under pressure everything becomes liquid is a well-known saying. That gives possibilities! How can we be relieved of our “external” burden of pressure and change it in positive energy not only for us, but also for our employees, so that innovation gets a bust? In other words, how can we reframe “busy” in a positive way? How can we shift our focus from being busy that costs us a lot of energy to things we’ll get energy from? But also: how is the experiences of being busy of our employees to whom we manage? Does busy have to do with the difficulty or the multiplicity of their task? Who (or what) can do it smarter, faster and more efficiently? Or totally different (disruptive)? How do we ensure that our company remains future-proof? How can we change the culture, is it normal to stick your neck out to do it completely different? We do say to each other that mistakes can be made (learned), but is that really true? 

A lot of questions, but if the urgency is not felt to do things really different, nothing happens. Or is it one of the many issues that we have to worry about? Therefore, reframe it in a positive way! You’ll get movement when pressure is built up in a combustion engine; however, you have to press the accelerator. That gives you positive energy! Therefore, do not feel the pressure of  having to do, but to wanting innovate!


Background information

This opinion piece is one of the deliverables of participants of the *Innovation Driver Certification Programme (IDCP). 

Author: Luitenant-kolonel Raimond Neuteboom, Commandant Sector Kennis at Koninklijke Marechaussee – Ministerie van Defensie, IDCP participant 2017-2018

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Disclaimer: This is a personal opinion piece. Any views represented in this post are personal and belong solely to the author and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity.

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