Hyper-Efficiency and Corporate Innovation – Are They Compatible?


There is an odd tension in many large businesses these days. On the one hand, many businesses are continually pushing through initiatives to maximize efficiency. This often means higher workloads and more hours for employees. At the same time, many of these very same businesses are looking for ways to maximize the innovation capability of their employees in order to fend off new market entrants and disruptive technologies.  

The question that is rarely asked, unfortunately, is just how compatible are these two priorities? In our view, not very. A few bits of research are worth noting on this topic. First, stressed out employees are typically not engaged employees. This is for obvious reasons. If a job makes you miserable, you probably are not going to be very engaged with it. Not surprisingly, employee engagement is significantly correlated with how innovative a company is. This also makes sense. Why would an employee be motivated to contribute novel thinking to a job he/she does not care about?

Corporate innovation thrives with several key ingredients. First, a culture of openness that encourages employees to continually contribute new ideas. Second, an understanding and buy-in for an organization’s mission that provides context for employees to recognize opportunities.  Lastly, employees should be empowered and motivated to act on opportunities. 

As your company weighs new “efficiency” campaigns, the correlation between high-engagement behaviors and internal innovation should be considered.  Overworking may pay off in the short run through lower costs and some upticks in productivity, but in the long run the organization may seriously hamper or even destroy its ability to innovate from within – a cost that could spell disaster for many companies.

Greg VanderPol