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So this is my sixth complete rewrite of this article, not because its a challenging topic, but rather because what others call innovation I call normal which has made writing about it somewhat odd. So here it is, innovation is simply semantics, virtually anyone can be innovative. Here’s the complete guide to being innovative.

People often approach innovation by looking within, what can they change about themselves to become innovative – what tap can they turn on to let those innovative juices flow.

This is wrong, innovation isn’t about you – it is about your team. Let me explain, in HR teams most of my managers have enjoyed and labeled my problem-solving approach as innovative, however when I was studying I was a fairly average student, no special talents, etc (sorry mum and dad).

The difference between my performance as a student and my performance as an HR practitioner is the people around me. As a student, my peers and I were presented with the same material, taught to approach problems in a similar way, individual talent and hard work were what separated us as a group.

In the workplace, however, I’m the guy with a Masters in Applied Psychology, a minor in Gender Studies, and a Graduate Diploma in Sociology. I have information and an approach to problem-solving which is very different from my colleagues with their HR degrees. So going from an average student to a well-regarded HR practitioner for myself is simply about the environment, indeed if I switched careers and went over to Psychology my market value would drop because based on my average performance in class against my peers, I would most likely turn out to be an average Psychologist.

I want to point out at this point that my traditionally trained HR colleagues are amazing at a great many things, but in some things because of my training and experience I can bring a new perspective, which allows for a problem to be solved. This new perspective and the solution are often labelled by others as innovative.

Education, however, is not everything, experience has proven to be really important also – and this is something you can tackle right now.

Talking to my colleagues at different organizations, my experience has been very different from theirs, one of the key differences is that I’ve gone between government agencies and private companies, while it seems most pick one and stick with it (either government or privately owned).

The role progression that I’ve undertaken has also varied greatly from my colleagues, I started with being an HR Process Adviser, then an HRMIS Administrator, Remuneration & HR Analyst, Workforce Consultant, and a few others. This is different from my colleagues who followed a fairly traditional role progression from HR Adviser, HR Consultant, and Senior HR Consultant, etc.

Indeed, the different approach I take with HR can also be seen in my writings here on, particularly when compared to my fellow HR bloggers. This is because as far as I can gather the majority are traditionally trained with degrees or certificates in HR, and drawing on a vastly different knowledge base to myself. Again this isn’t suggesting I’m better, but rather that I will focus on different things and deliver different articles. Hint: feel free to read other HR blogs, but do keep an eye on this one for some different takes on HR.

Right, enough about me. To be innovative you need to be different from your peers, the easiest way to do this is find a team or workplace where you are different. Ideally you will be different on at least two counts across such areas as experience, education, ethnicity, country of birth, or gender (and there will be more, those are the ones that come to mind and can be easily assessed). Your different approach, coupled with your ability to deliver results will gain you acclaim as an innovative thinker.

So that’s really it, if you want to be an innovative thinker you now have an approach to make that happen.

By Brendan Lys

Operating at the intersection of Human Resources and Data Science, I leverage extensive specialist experience within Human Resources, with the methodologies and approaches of Data Science. This focus on the discovery of actionable insights from data, has been applied to areas such as: remuneration & benefits, workforce planning, recruitment, health & safety, diversity, and training. But what does the application of data science to HR challenges and opportunities actually look like. Within an HR framework the data we work with typically comes directly from our HRMIS, an advantage of using data science methodologies is that we can bring in additional data either held within the organization or from external sources - data which is out of reach from a pure HR analytics approach. Consider for example position descriptions, these contain a wealth of data that we typically ignore as its not in a analysis ready format. A side project I'm working on currently (April 2019) is using text mining on job descriptions to provide insights into which job family the position may fit into. The insights of my work have been enjoyed by organizations across a diversity of sectors including: Government (Australia and New Zealand), ASX and NZX listed companies, utilities, not for profit and higher education.