Innovation Theater: Part Three

In the previous installment in this series, we presented the consequence of Peloton’s failure to keep pedaling. In this installment we’ll discuss how and why other companies need not suffer Peloton’s fate.

Last month, Gallup published an article entitled, “U.S. Employee Engagement Drops for First Year in a Decade”. According to said article:

For the first year in more than a decade, the percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. declined in 2021. Just over one-third of employees (34%) were engaged, and 16% were actively disengaged in their work and workplace, based on a random sample of 57,022 full- and part-time employees throughout the year. This compares with 36% engaged and 14% actively disengaged in 2020, a year with unprecedented highs and lows.

As a lover of language, I’m most intrigued by how one might define actively disengaged. I imagine it’s akin to phrases like deeply uncaring, profoundly unmoved, lovingly hateful, definitively ambivalent, aimlessly directed, positively negative, peacefully conflicted, and passionately indifferent.

We’re not here to talk about language, of course. We’re here to talk about innovation. But in this case, there are clear and present connections between meaningless language, the way in which meaningless language indicates (and covers for) an obvious lack of innovation, and the way in which meaningless language and lack of innovation contribute directly to … uh … active disengagement. (Ouch!)

As Ye Sow …

My experience in more than 20 years of brand management has taught me one universal truth: If you communicate openly, if you let your people connect with and contribute to your brand and its purpose in whatever ways they will, regardless of their title or position, they’ll proudly and enthusiastically represent the brand every day. And you’ll give your people even greater levels of engagement, purpose, fulfillment, and loyalty if you invite and encourage their contributions systemically and systematically.

That truth is how and why this also appeared in the article:

Gallup measures employee engagement by asking random samples of the working population about … clarity of expectations, opportunities for development and opinions counting at work … engaged employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. Actively disengaged employees are disgruntled and disloyal because most of their workplace needs are unmet.

If you’re not clarifying your expectations for your people, giving them opportunities for development, inviting and encouraging them to share their opinions, their ideas, and their contributions — and if you haven’t given them a framework in which to systemically and systematically do all of those things — whether you know it or not, you’re engaged in innovation theater. If you know it, you can fix it. If you don’t know it, it might not be too late to learn it.

If you don’t know it or fix it, it’s time to get off the stage.