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Boosting Innovative Work Behaviour

Leadership and Lean Innovation

Boosting Employee Creativity in Singapore

In today’s fast-paced world, innovation is no longer just a buzzword – it’s a necessity. Companies that fail to innovate risk falling behind. Innovative work behaviour of all employees is key to stay afloat.

But how can organisations, particularly in a culturally unique context like Singapore, foster a culture of innovation?

Innovative Work Behaviour

This question lies at the heart of our exploration into leadership and lean innovation training.

The Singaporean Context: Challenges and Opportunities

Singapore, with its collectivist culture and high power distance, presents unique challenges for fostering innovative work behaviour (IWB). Employees often hesitate to “rock the boat” with new ideas, fearing the disruption of established routines.

Innovative Work Behaviour

However, this environment also offers opportunities. With the right leadership and training, organisations can turn these cultural traits into strengths, promoting innovation in ways that resonate with the local work culture.

Transformational Leadership: The Catalyst for Innovation

Research has consistently shown that transformational leadership – characterised by vision, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and personalized support – can significantly enhance employee innovation.

Innovative Work Behaviour

In a Singaporean context, this leadership style is particularly effective because it aligns with the collectivist value of group harmony while encouraging individual contributions to innovation.

Perceived Support for Innovation: A Crucial Mediator

For employees to engage in innovative behaviour, they need to feel supported. This perceived support involves recognising and rewarding creativity, providing the necessary resources, and creating an environment open to change.

Innovative Work Behaviour

Transformational leaders play a critical role in fostering this supportive environment, thereby encouraging employees to take risks and champion new ideas.

Lean Innovation Training: Building Creative Role Identity

Lean Innovation Training (LIT), which combines Lean Six Sigma and Creative Problem-Solving (CPS) tools, has been shown to significantly boost employees’ creative role identities and innovative behaviours.

Innovative Work Behaviour

By participating in LIT, employees not only learn new skills but also begin to see themselves as capable innovators. This shift in self-perception is crucial for sustaining innovation efforts over the long term.

Empirical Studies: Insights from Singapore

Our research involved three empirical studies conducted in various public and private service organisations in Singapore. These studies explored how transformational leadership and LIT impact employee innovation.

Study 1: Transformational Leadership and IWB

The first study examined the relationship between transformational leadership and employee IWB using our Innovation Readiness Survey (IRS).

The findings confirmed that transformational leadership positively influences IWB, mediated by perceived support for innovation and innovation readiness (Tan, Van Dun, & Wilderom, 2021).

Innovative Work Behaviour

Study 2: The Impact of LIT on Innovation

The second study focused on a public service organisation where Lean Innovation Training (LIT) was implemented. The results showed that LIT, coupled with transformational leadership, significantly enhanced employees’ creative role identity and IWB.

Employees felt more psychologically safe and supported, leading to higher levels of innovation (Tan, Van Dun, & Wilderom, 2023).

Innovative Work Behaviour

Study 3: Beyond Transformational Leadership

The third study sought to identify specific leader behaviours beyond transformational leadership that could evoke IWB in a collectivist culture.

A new survey instrument, the Innovative Leader Survey (ILS), was developed and validated. This tool helps organisations assess and develop leadership behaviours that promote innovation (Tan, Van Dun & Wilderom, 2024) .

Innovative Work Behaviour

Practical Implications: Strategies for Success

The insights from these studies offer practical strategies for organisations looking to foster innovation:

  • Develop Transformational Leaders: Invest in training programs that enhance leaders’ transformational skills. Focus on vision, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and personalized support.
  • Implement Lean Innovation Training: Adopt LIT to build employees’ creative role identities. This training should integrate Lean Six Sigma and CPS tools, emphasizing hands-on, action-learning experiences.
  • Create a Supportive Environment: Ensure that employees feel supported in their innovative efforts. Recognize and reward creativity, provide necessary resources, and foster an open, change-friendly culture.
Innovative Work Behaviour
  • Use the Innovative Leader Survey: Utilise the ILS to assess current leadership behaviours and identify areas for improvement. Tailor leadership development programs to enhance behaviours that promote IWB.

Conclusion: Unleashing Innovation in Singapore

Innovation is a complex but crucial endeavour for organisational success.

In Singapore, where cultural factors can both hinder and help innovation, the right leadership and training are key.

By developing transformational leaders, implementing Lean Innovation Training, and creating a supportive environment, organisations can unleash the innovative potential of their employees.

Innovative Work Behaviour

This approach not only drives business success but also contributes to a more dynamic and innovative economy.

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Amy BC Tan

Amy is the Executive Director at the Centre of Organisational Effectiveness (COE Pte Ltd). She has more than 20 years of experience in human resource management and organisational development in various industries.

She has held senior leadership positions with Nokia, Aon, Ministry of Manpower and Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee. She has led the transformation of the HR functions and several organisational development initiatives for multiple organisations.

Amy is also trained in Creative Problem Solving and certified as Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, an accredited practitioner in executive coaching and psychological instruments such as MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator®), DiSC, Harrison Assessment and Belbin Team Roles.

Amy can be reached via

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