Successful innovation remains to be one of the most promising strategy for organisations to strive for the continuance of international competitiveness, sustainable growth and long term survival. However, the day-to-day operations of an organisation are dependent on its internal climate. The status of the organisational climate influences organisational process …
Successful innovation remains to be one of the most promising strategy for organisations to strive for the continuance of international competitiveness, sustainable growth and long term survival. However, the day-to-day operations of an organisation are dependent on its internal climate. The status of the organisational climate influences organisational process such as communication, problem-solving, decision-making and psychological processes of self-development and motivation. New paradigms and increasing complexity in the business environment are raising the need to nurture a culture of innovation. A supportive environment which encourages innovation from its employees will most likely yield an organisational climate which in turn affects organisational creativity, motivation and emotional engagement levels, and therefore has a positive influence on organisational performance. Organisations can adapt theories in game design and play as an innovation strategy to help leaders understand the importance of nurturing a culture of innovation.
Current work places lack the fundamental elements of autotelic work which is required in today’s organisations to even begin creating a culture of innovation. This results from the need to tackle the increased intensity and stress as a result of globalisation and technological developments. When we are intrinsically motivated through autotelic activities, we create conditions for a structured learning environment, combined with intrinsically motivated challenges and a sense of autonomy. According to Czikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow, we achieve the state of optimal experience when our skills are continually in balance with the challenges we encounter. It is when challenges are aligned with clear, realistic goals, supported with resources and the people you work with, that the workforce can unleash its potential to increase performance, without suppressing creativity and positive organisational energy.
A common phenomenon has been spotted across many work places that the majority of us have experienced—boredom. Many of us have experienced a phase of high excitement at the start of their new jobs, but gradually fall into a long term phase of boredom. Although this does not happen for everyone, however we do see boredom everywhere, and “it is a by-product of poorly structured system” (as Aaron Dignan describes in his book Game Frame). Very often we sink into a state of boredom, and surprisingly, we grow quite fond of this state fairly quickly and easily—before we know it, it becomes the norm. It could be seen as a by-product of poorly structured systems that fail to provide enjoyable intrinsic motivations. We spend more than half of our lifetime working in conditions that do not promote our well-being, which begs the question: Are we actually happy? Studies have proven that extrinsically motivated activities do not contribute to happiness at all, in fact, they have adverse effect on one’s well-being. Then why do most organisations provide merely exhaustive work systems often driven by motivations such as money, promotions and bonuses? Positive psychologist, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi argues that the failure of current systems—schools, offices, factories and other everyday environments—to provide flow has become a serious moral issue. Flow, by definition is the state in which people are fully engaged in an activity that provides the most pleasurable, satisfying and meaningful emotional state we can experience. Flow inducing activities are what psychologists describe as ‘autotelic work’—self-motivated, self-rewarding with a primary function to provide enjoyable experiences and lead us to a state of optimal experience. Can we reinvent our working environments and activities in a way that could be enjoyable and productive at the same time?
For a start, one highly promising alternative to tackle common ‘organisational symptoms’, such as boredom, disengagement and dissatisfaction, is to adapt theories in game design and play into daily work processes. In turn, these can provide flow-inducing activities to nurture an innovation culture when applied to three different levels in an organisation: (1) organisational climate; (2) psychological climate of employees; (3) human resources development. However, this alone is not enough to sustain the well-being of workers over prolonged periods of time. It requires the interplay of a myriad of factors to create collaborative synergies within relationships. Some key factors include adaptive management style, collaborative organisational structure and supportive climate, as well as leadership that promotes trust, whilst harnessing the power of collective ambition. These collaborative synergies result in non-exhaustive work systems leading to innovative practice. To deliver innovation externally, an organisation must first innovate internally.
Related post: “Fun and work, why must they be mutually exclusive?”