top of page

Innovation DNA: An Employee-Centered Approach

Updated: Jan 11

Organizations must build dynamic, creative problem-solving capabilities to drive innovation and stay competitive in today’s complex and rapidly changing business landscape. The article explores three vital questions on building these capabilities across an organization.


1. What creative problem-solving capabilities are you building across the organization? 

Organizations are facing unprecedented challenges due to the rapid pace of change. To tackle these challenges, they must continuously deploy creative problem-solving capabilities across all levels. However, many organizations depend heavily on external consultants, which results in them failing to develop critical internal capabilities. To achieve sustainable solutions, it is crucial to address performance gaps across people and systems simultaneously.

An employee-centric approach places accountable individuals at the center of creative problem-solving methodologies and processes, connecting organizational gaps to talent gaps. This clarifies decision-making, actions, and skills/motivation needs, revealing untapped potential and driving engagement in solving organizational challenges through purpose. Shared visions that resonate across human and organizational layers are crucial for achieving alignment on the way forward.

Any methodology should focus on empowering the right people to adapt processes rather than simply adapting the processes despite the people. This approach ensures that practical and sustainable solutions are developed from within. The emphasis is on enabling teams to self-diagnose issues, generate solutions, and execute change initiatives. Leadership is pivotal in creating an environment that encourages unlocking creative potential. The goal is to build long-term capacity to respond nimbly to dynamic challenges.

2. What is your organizational tolerance for innovative solutions?

For organizations to evolve, it is crucial to focus on both adaptive improvements and disruptive innovations. However, it is essential to remember that the appetite for risk-taking and change can vary across different organizational units based on leadership style, policies, and culture. In addition, individual cognitive styles can also influence the organization’s ability to adapt and innovate, with some individuals exhibiting a preference for adaptive incremental thinking and others for innovative, radical thinking. Therefore, it’s essential to balance these two approaches while considering the organization’s and its employees’ unique characteristics, transparently navigating any discrepancies between executive rhetoric and on-ground capacity so that revised expectations and authority can be negotiated accordingly.

Leaders should communicate innovation goals, risk tolerance, timelines, and resource allocation at the outset. They should provide teams with explicit checkpoints and tracking indicators, balanced by accountability for disciplined execution and pacing, to empower them. Leaders should also demonstrate urgency with patience.

Roles should be assigned based on individual strengths to improve process efficacy and encourage constructive debate between teams, combining stability- and experimentation-focused approaches, challenging assumptions, and deeply collaborating to achieve integration. Any methodology should aim to uncover latent capabilities, make trade-off negotiations explicit, harness complementary skills, and provide air cover and momentum leadership. It is important to tailor the approach to the specific situation at hand rather than applying a one-size-fits-all solution.

3. How are individuals empowered to discover their creative potential? 

Creative problem-solving requires empowering individuals to unlock their potential while aligning to organizational goals. An employee-centric methodology supplements an approach like the Double Diamond by deliberately developing talent through each phase.

In problem conceptualization, beyond defining the gap, individuals clarify accountabilities, identify capability gaps, and address them to improve contributions. Solution conceptualization similarly scaffolds skills for generating ideas for solutions and formulating hypotheses.

Testing solutions powers abilities to prototype, design experiments, and validate/refine based on insights. Scaling enhancements focus on being able to responsively iterate implementation based on context variability to sustain efficacy.

At each stage, a meta layer addresses individual competencies with the same level of rigor as the broader organizational challenge. It focuses on individuals’ abilities for decisions, actions, and motivations rather than just systems. The outcomes encompass both macro solutions and expanded human capacity. This helps build a continuous learning and innovation culture rather than just external-sourced solutions based on one-off consulting engagements. Future organizational challenges can be tackled internally rather than relying on external support. The emphasis is on developing and improving competencies, not just creating artifacts.

It’s a symbiotic approach where individuals’ enablement leads to improved organizational performance. As organizational priorities shift, individuals can adapt and enhance their skills accordingly. Sustainable performance can be achieved by linking macro and micro levels and addressing gaps in both the system and human elements through an interconnected journey.

In summary, organizations seeking to foster dynamic innovation should diagnose their creative DNA, clarify innovation guardrails, implement structured approaches to nurture talent and align systems to support problem-solvers. This human-centered capacity building powers the solution ideation critical for the future.

This summary covered key ideas in the article, some critical takeaways are:

  • Take an employee-centric innovation perspective…

  • Assess tolerance for innovation…

  • Customize process design…

  • Use each initiative to develop skills and expand capacity…

For the full analysis and theoretical framing, check out the complete article here.

By continuing to nurture our problem-solvers, we build the creative muscle and leadership bench critical for repeatedly tackling complex issues ahead with speed and ingenuity. The ultimate solutions emerge when our systems enable our talented teams to thrive.

This intentional focus on empowering teams through applied innovation opportunities unlocks enduring organizational agility.


If you’d like to have a conversation about this or anything else of mine you’ve seen or read that triggered your interest, please use the link below to find a time that works for you for us to have a conversation. I am looking forward to it.


This article incorporates text generated with the assistance of GPT & Claude, advanced language models developed by OpenAI and Anthropic, respectively, and Grammarly Go.

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page