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How to keep up with innovation in the workplace

Change seems to be the only constant in the workplace. To be good at your job, you’re expected to handle the challenges of a fast-paced work environment, stay ahead of trends and innovate. At times, it can feel overwhelming but with the right mindset, you won’t just learn how to keep up – you can be the one to bring innovation to your workplace.

Why is innovation in the workplace so important?

The fact is, if you’re not prepared to innovate you’ll fall behind. To be employable in our digital age, you need to be across the latest technology. Organisations need staff who can help them navigate industry disruption. Employers want people who can bring them ideas.

Dr Toija Cinque, Senior Lecturer in Screen and Design with Deakin, says Australia’s workforce is continually and rapidly changing and we need to change with it. Her mantra for keeping up with technological change is simple yet to the point: ‘Learn, adapt, implement’.

‘As an “information economy” or “knowledge society”, we need innovative thinkers and the capacity to adapt,’ Dr Cinque says.

Technology is changing the face of employment in Australia. ‘This has a lot to do with emerging technologies affording greater, faster and different transitions than we have previously experienced in the workplace,’ she adds. ‘Facilitated by digital technology, labour is becoming mobile and independent. Individuals are called to become entrepreneurial, creating their own work or business and dreaming up the jobs of the future that don’t yet exist.’

Embrace a fast-paced work environment

When the game keeps changing, how do you stare down the risk of burnout and learn to embrace the fast pace? The key is to have an adaptive, innovative mindset.

Innovation in the workplace doesn’t necessarily mean radical change. It can mean having a desire to understand shifting user trends, an enthusiasm to try new technology or the drive to improve a process.

‘An adaptive mindset can involve having an attitude for positively handling current and emerging workplaces,’ Dr Cinque says.

‘Because of the increased pace of socio-economic change fuelled by technological innovation and globalisation, the workplaces of the future will call on individuals having a growth mindset or adaptability, resilience, and the capacity to become entrepreneurial. An adaptive mindset helps workers deal with minor and major transitions as they arise,’ she says.

'As an “information economy” or “knowledge society”, we need innovative thinkers and the capacity to adapt.'

Dr Toija Cinque,
Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University

The good news is that being adaptive isn’t an innate skill. Resilience can be learned and practiced. ‘The capacity to learn and then routinely practice an adaptive mindset and remain resilient in different situations is developed through education as well as everyday life over time,’ Dr Cinque says.

In fact, an adaptive or innovative mindset can be a useful asset throughout your working life. ‘Many will change jobs, even professions, multiple times in the course of their lives,’ Dr Cinque says. By developing your resilience and thinking like an innovator, you’ll be well-equipped to handle change and even learn to enjoy it, boosting your career prospects.

Plan for how you’ll deal with pressure

One of the biggest struggles in a fast-paced work environment is dealing with information overload, referred to by some as the ‘Paradox of Choice’.

‘There are many choices available and differing sources of information which can be overwhelming, leading to feelings of inaction in some instances and even despondency,’ Dr Cinque says.

She suggests getting expert help if you’re struggling with the pace at work. ‘Working with appropriate health professionals and learning facilitators can help when such feelings are significant.’

Education is the best way to ready yourself for the demands of today’s workforce. ‘For many, an ongoing education, from school to some form of higher education, will keep people appropriately prepared for arising opportunities in our increasingly fast-paced work/lifestyles.’

‘To promote workforce growth and staying ahead in terms of tools, practices and skills, organisations and individuals both might combine a change in mindset that is accompanied with formal education or training.’

If you’re starting to enjoy success at a mid-career level, postgraduate study can help you maintain momentum and foster an innovative mindset.

How else can you keep momentum and protect yourself from burnout? Dr Cinque’s tip is one we’ve all heard before but are often guilty of ignoring. ‘Wellbeing is maintained by a sound work-life balance with personal time factored into each day,’ she says.

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Dr Toija Cinque
Dr Toija Cinque

Senior Lecturer in Screen and Design, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University

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