Forget the corner office: empowering leaders work among their teams
10/26/2017 - 08:15

The next wave of economic success is created by new kinds of players. While many traditional industries have had to cut down operations and lay off staff over the last few years, the contribution of new and innovative businesses has luckily largely outweighed the effect, creating new jobs and economic wealth.

A common denominator to many of today’s successful companies is their ability to integrate new digital opportunities in their processes, products and services in innovative ways. Successful businesses are ready and willing to reinvent themselves and their operations as the world around them changes.

How to empower people to be creative and innovative?

Long-term success and flexibility to change are based on people and leadership. How do these companies and organizations thriving on digitalization lead their teams to continuously generate new and visionary ideas?

The best guidelines I’ve seen thus far are in the recent dissertation by Piia Uusi-Kakkuri, titled Transformational leadership and leading creativity. Her key theme is continuous questioning: leaders must keep asking if they are focusing on the right things, and keep encouraging their teams to do the same.

The key questions to ask are whether we are solving the right problems, and whether we could do things completely differently than before.

This kind of questioning requires a shared vision, collaborative leadership, and a conversational culture. According to Uusi-Kakkuri, leaders are expected to intellectually stimulate their teams and to give freedom to employees instead of adhering to the traditional command-and-control approach.

Ideally, motivating and coaching leadership style results in inspired individuals reaching new highs: exactly the state of mind where new ideas and results are created.

Break free from silos and spaces inhibiting collaboration.

Workplaces play a strong role in orienting people to collaborate openly. A conversational culture requires dismantling the silos set by organization charts and supported by traditional office layouts based on distinct areas for different functions and hierarchy levels.

Various spaces at the workplace must be designed to encourage flat hierarchy. Leaders set the example by working in among their teams, not in corner offices.

Office design is a highly efficient tool to flatten hierarchies and increase open collaboration. The key to success is to introduce spaces specifically built to encourage spontaneous interaction and co-creation.

Optimal workplaces support the employees’ sense of self control. Practical examples include the freedom to choose the space best suited for any given task, and to adjust the number and purpose of interactions during the day. An ideal space inspires creativity, contributes to a cozy atmosphere, and encourages the exchange of ideas with colleagues.

The author Boris Pasternak once wrote along the lines of ‘Trust those sides in you that are the brightest, strongest and most farsighted’. This is a very valid piece of advice for each one of us, but when you think of it, the wisdom also applies to businesses in the middle of change.

Let’s trust what’s the brightest, strongest and most farsighted in our organizations, and emphasize those traits in all facets of change - including workplace design.

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Blog authors

VP, Customer Supply Management
Martela Oyj
Director, Education
Vice President, Innovation to Market
Interior Architect, Physiotherapist, Physical Training Instructor, 11/2016 - 06/2019, Martela

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