Workplace Unplugged

How FMs Can Spark Innovation & Workplace Engagement

Moira vandenAkker
June 15th, 2016

Jeremy_Scrivens.png“You’ve got great stories coming out of the technology companies. Innovation is all about tech, mobile, things people can use. But what about the ordinary people? What are their stories?”

After spending 20 years in human resources, Jeremy Scrivens now describes himself as a workforce innovation catalyst. He is setting out to negate the statement above and is proving innovation is in fact for ordinary people.

He started his company, The Emotional Economy at Work, nearly two decades ago where he works with businesses of all sizes to help their teams become innovative through collaboration.

JS: For 20 years I was taught what we now call the rational problem-solving approach towards organizations and work. Most managers for the past 150 years have been taught to view organizations and businesses as problem-solving.


So why is problem-solving a bad thing?

JS: The issue is, the language of problem solving is about taking things apart, looking at what’s not working, what’s diseased, what’s broken. I began to deploy that language […] We taught the language of problems and we got people looking at the bad stuff, what’s not working. The more we did that, the more people got down and defensive, and we didn’t really achieve a lot.

Scrivens says a new way of thinking began to emerge in the early 2000s – a shift towards engaging the workforce.

JS: I began to think there was something missing, something more than just numbers, something more than just efficiency and cost, something deeper towards work, something towards leaving contribution and a legacy, you know, working for something because of yourself.


The global analytics giant Gallup released a study recently that stunned many. After studying 142 countries, it discovered that only 13% of employees are engaged at work.

If this staggering statistic is true, then what can we do to boost this?

Scrivens says we need an ‘inside out’ approach – not ‘outside in.’

JS: Inside out you’re starting with the individual units of something, which in this case is people, studying who they are. For years it was about holding a company workshop and having a strategy session about the company brand. So it’s outside in, and people are pulled along into a workshop rather than asked the questions ‘Who are you? What are your strengths? And what can you contribute to the conversation?’

So what does this mean for managers in the modern workplace today?

JS: One of the first things I would say is to switch from problem-solving to continuous improvement and innovation. It’ll be to disrupt the conversation from improvement to about what’s next.

The world is changing, the kinds of issues and problem solving that need to be done, need whole new radical approaches that require new brains, new ideas they are beyond the knowledge and understanding of the experts. So the knowledge to innovate relies within the workforce and stakeholder groups, but we’ve got to engage them […] You cannot innovate with a not-engaged workforce.


So how can managers get their teams to be engaged? Scrivens says it’s all about taking the time to get to know your team.

JS: What we know is the most engaged people are engaged voluntarily, which means they decide to be engaged because there’s something they love about the culture, they’re drawn to the culture, not driven to it. So they work in a culture that first of all recognizes and allows them to be who they are, that recognizes their differences, that takes the time to find out who they are and find out how to be more who they are. They work in organizations that take time out to build consensus around share beliefs and shared behaviors.

Scrivens says the first step to take to improve innovation, engagement and collaboration is to determine the strengths of the group.

JS: The first thing I do now when working with an organization is work to identify the natural strengths of the group of people whoever the core team is and work with them to build to what I call a collaborative code of beliefs and behaviours to take the journey forward together. It develops high trust and it’s a way to gauge all of our strengths and differences and a way to graph each other and what we believe about the world.

The most engaged people in the world work to their strengths.

To learn more about Jeremy Scrivens and The Emotional Economy, connect with him directly on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter: @JeremyScrivens.