Blog: Can HR devise rules that stimulate not stifle innovation?

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When you look at their end products, service and reputation, you can’t help but associate words like innovation and creativity with the US technology firm, Apple.

Having revolutionised mobile phone technology, the business has transformed the way we communicate and managed to wrap all kinds of inventions and creations into one handheld device. So then, it was even more interesting to read recently that (and I’m going to assume that HR had some input here) Apple has decided to introduce rules, regulations or (more to the point) boundaries, for its staff around use of social media at the workplace. Why would a company that thrives on the free-flowing ideas of the individuals on the payroll look to restrict and prohibit in this way? To make matters worse, Neil Morrison, Group HR Director at Random House announced at a recent CIPD event that social media ‘rules’ indicate lack of trust and attempts to ‘control’ staff. It’s not that having a set of stated rules, standards and expectations is unacceptable – we all need to understand where the boundaries are and a clear ‘contract’ of behaviour is good for staff and organisations alike. The challenge, instead, is to find ways to create a balance between fair amounts of controls and safeguards within an environment that allows freedom for creativity. It is, in fact, all about how we go about creating new rules or even communicating existing ones. If done as a knee jerk reaction, coming straight from the top and penalising everyone for the behaviour of probably only one individual, they will send the message that an organisation distrusts every member of staff. However, if an organisation consults staff appropriately and creates a balanced set of rules or guidelines and chooses language which clearly conveys an acceptance that the vast majority of staff would not deliberately flaunt rules put there to protect themselves and the organisation alike, the balance of control and individual freedom to innovate need not be lost. Responsible staff understand that for a group of individuals to function together in an effective way, there needs to be an agreed set of protocols. If these are developed in consultation and respect for the impact on valued employees, then their feeling of involvement and ownership can be maintained, even grown.  Emma Littmoden is a partner at leadership programme provider, The Living Leader. We welcome any and all contributions from the community, so please feel free to share your views and opinions with us, your colleagues and peers via our blogs section.   

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