Big Thoughts, Innovation

Why Personal Value Creation is a 21st Century Core Competency

Ask yourself how much new value did you create for your organization today? Did you suggest a new way to reengineer a common task that could result in a better outcome? Are your work behaviors keeping you relevant? If these questions are not top of mind for you yet, they will be. Your future employment may depend on being able to answer them with a resounding yes. Why? Read on.

Much of the discourse on innovation has been focused on enterprise delivery to the marketplace. Innovation as a personal daily work behavior has not nearly received the attention it deserves. That needs to change. For one thing, it is intimately relevant to every worker and not simply something that one only observes. I’ve discussed for many years that enterprise innovation is increasingly essential, but I’ve not addressed the one area that each of us has control over: personal innovation.

So what is personal innovation? It contains many of the same elements of organizational innovation. These are qualities such as creating new value and engineering new ways of doing things that result in better outcomes. It’s about taking these concepts and applying them to yourself. It’s possible to test your personal innovation by asking these types of questions and determining whether you can answer them in a position manner: Do I personally add new value each day? Am I perceived by others as an innovator in how I go about my work? And one of my favorites: Do I seek to retool and reinvent myself at regular intervals to increase the value of my contributions?

The author Daniel Pink argues convincingly that the future of employment in American will increasingly rely on right-brained thinking. This is thinking that is complex and creative in nature and not that of the left-brain which is rooted in repetitive, process-driven activities. The premise is that left-brained work is without novelty and can be performed by anyone (and with greater frequency by machines). Right-brained activities on the other hand; tasks such as creative problem solving and idea generation are difficult to codify and package and therefore hold the key to gainful employment and wealth generation in the long-term.

Those in left-brained work must consider whether a partial or full transition to right-brained work makes sense. Those in right-brained work need to ask whether, on introspection, they are just toeing the line. In the reality of our new global economy, personal innovation must be paramount. If you aren’t creating new value, if you aren’t reinventing yourself on a regular basis, and if you’re not being creative in how you approach problems, you are increasing the possibility of irrelevancy. Future success in our post-industrial society will rely on each of us innovating as a core behavior. It’s possible that if you’re not personally innovating every day, you might as well do yourself a favor and go home.

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