January 25, 2021, by aczjb1

Build back better and Build back differently – Prof. Simon Mosey

As we return to work after the holidays, an age-old debate is being revisited in online meetings across the world. One side of the debate can be summarised by the catchy alliteration of ‘build back better’ – we define this as incremental innovation, carefully and painstakingly improving on what we have done previously.

The other side of the debate is mobilising behind the slogan of ‘build back differently’, which we suggest is radical innovation, sweeping away old traditions with completely new ways of working.

Both sides can draw upon numerous examples to prove their case, but our research shows that it is possible and in fact necessary to do both. This leads to another refrain, that we are all so busy that we don’t have time to change anything, we should revisit this when the uncertainty is over. Here we would pose the uncomfortable truth that uncertainty is ever present, and so innovation is not a luxury, but an imperative.

This reminds me of our work with the leadership team at the construction firm Tarmac. Following a series of debates like the ones ongoing today, we reached an agreement that innovation was imperative, but how could we make it so across the whole organisation.

After many workshops with diverse groups of employees to explore this challenge, one insight stood out to me – that they should treat innovation in the same way as they dealt with health and safety regulations when they were introduced. Now innovation became the first agenda item on weekly meetings, radical innovation challenge workshops were held with suppliers and an understanding of the different types of innovation and their importance was slowly developed and shared.

I am sure they will agree it is a work in progress. Innovation never ends. But they have shown it is possible to build better and build differently.

Professor Simon Mosey is Director of the Haydn Green Institute

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