Chief Executive Officer,
Women & Leadership Australia

Harnessing innovation and collaboration: Leading through the Great Resignation.

Leading through the Great Resignation is a series of articles exploring the tools and frameworks that will help leaders effectively navigate emerging workplace trends, by Suzi Finkelstein, CEO at Women & Leadership Australia. 

Now is our time to design the future of our workplaces. For many of us, the period of change and adaptation we’ve experienced over the last two years has given us a unique opportunity to pause and reflect. There have been unexpected wins: flexible work has been normalised, work-life balance has become a priority, and many of us have discovered new ways to work together virtually. Now, as we adjust to post-pandemic life, we must choose how to move ahead. 

Harnessing innovation and collaboration can help leaders combine the best of remote working with the advantages of coming together in the office. According to a recent report from Microsoft, leaders must look for ways to foster the cross-team collaboration and spontaneous idea-sharing that’s been driving workplace innovation for decades.

Innovation is about doing something new, in a different or improved way. Innovation allows us to find new ways of working – like different ways to deliver our work, or introducing new practices, programs or products. As leaders, we can encourage innovation by creating an environment that is conducive to creativity and new ideas. 

Right now, innovation is key to designing our hybrid workplaces of the future. Envisioning and creating a different way of working – one that delivers for employees as well as organisations – will set some organisations apart, while others slip back into old habits.

That’s why collaboration is so important: inviting collaboration across the organisation will not only help to build support for innovative solutions from the start, it will ensure that new work practices, systems and policies will provide better outcomes for everyone. 

Making room for innovation and collaboration can be challenging – it demands we take time away from day-to-day tasks in order to consider a broader view of our organisation: our ways of working, workplace culture and long-term goals.

We often hear from participants in our leadership programs that establishing a practice of regularly stepping up ‘onto the balcony’ to engage in big-picture thinking is one of the most impactful outcomes of our courses. 

In fact, our leadership development programs create a disciplined reflective space – with the added opportunity to invite others onto your balcony to assist you with your thinking. Program participants cultivate this discipline by applying their learnings within their cohort, and in peer-to-peer or executive coaching sessions. These spaces create the perfect environment for constructive thinking. 

And there’s no better time than now for leaders to be taking stock. Learning from the last two years, engaging with their teams, and making time and space for innovation and collaboration.

It’s the only way our workplaces will evolve, for the benefit of ourselves, our teams and our organisations. 

Tips for harnessing innovation and collaboration

  • Identify and test assumptions about what can and can’t be done in your workplace, and core beliefs about the way things are 
  • Involve a diverse group of people from across the organisation in early brainstorming and planning sessions to ensure a wide range of perspectives are considered – tap into insights from different areas of the organisation and different personality types 
  • Help you team navigate change with the Four Doors of Change model 
  • Expect iterations and ongoing improvement – pay attention to what works as well as what doesn’t, and allow for personal and organisational contexts to evolve over time.
  • Consider a leadership development program or leadership coaching to cultivate your own leadership practice. 


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