How many ideas should move from selected to implemented?
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As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, driven by increased global collaboration and rapid advances in technology, a growing need will be for organizations to locate the right skills base to carry its innovation initiatives forward. So says Jim Carroll, author of the new book, Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast.

As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, driven by increased global collaboration and rapid advances in technology, a growing need will be for organizations to locate the right skills base to carry its innovation initiatives forward. So says Jim Carroll, author of the new book, Ready, Set, Done: How to Innovate When Faster is the New Fast.

“In an era of rapid innovation, you are faced with a future that requires a new form of human capital: the ability to employ the right skills at the right time for the right purpose, regardless of where the skill might be required or the skill is sourced.”

This problem is exacerbated by several key trends, including the accelerating obsolescence of knowledge and demographic trends (many companies are already facing shortages of skilled workers, and the problem will only be getting worse in the years ahead). According to Carroll, some of the world’s leading companies have already anticipated this trend, and are devoting an increasing amount of energy and attention to “human capital agility” – just-in-time deployment of the skills needed to support their future needs.

“Whether it is dealing with the rapid emergence of new client expectations, ever more challenging organizational complexities, more complex product development, or sudden and dramatic new forms of competition, (these leaders) are orienting themselves toward the ability to quickly harness together a new team of talented people. That capability is becoming a critical success factor for the future.”

Carroll contends that this area is ripe for innovative thinking. Organizations need to be pre-emptive in locating promising candidates with the skill sets they need, or face being limited by shortages of the key people they need to drive their innovation initiatives forward. It also offers new opportunities for non-traditional recruiting and work models.

I recently heard the vice president of human resources of a major Texas construction contractor speak on the innovative approaches his firm is using to locate talented, skilled workers. These strategies include flexible new job models, such as job sharing, and looking for promising candidates in unusual places, such as middle-aged women returning to the workforce after raising their children. Being creative and proactive helps this firm to avoid the “poaching penalty” – the 20%+ premium that you must pay to lure the best people to jump from their current job to work for your organization.

Carroll recommends asking these questions to help you take a more innovative look at your organization’s current and future skills needs:

  • Do we have the people we need in the right places/positions to fulfill the mission?
  • We have the right people with the right skills available at the right time?
  • If we’re suddenly faced with rapid market or industry change, do we know how to access specialized skills and talent we might need?
  • What barriers might exist in our ability to rapidly acquire and deploy skills?

Carroll emphasizes that your strategies must include not only innovative approaches to hiring talent, but also sourcing it through joint ventures, partnerships and other creative external arrangements. Already, many companies are utilizing this strategy by hiring ideation firms to help them develop innovative new concepts for future products and services.

I really like the concept of “skills agility.” It speaks of the need to be situationally aware, anticipating future needs, as well as being flexible and proactive, able to respond quickly to changing market conditions.

I’ve only had a chance to skim Ready, Set, Done so far. But it looks like Jim Carroll has done a great job outlining the effects of today’s high-velocity, global marketplace, and how that needs to impact our innovation strategies.

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