How to be a Better Innovator

Someone wrote me the other day asking my opinion on HR and innovation. She said she did not see that HR had much room to innovate in today’s business world. I responded to her and I told her I thought there was room to be more innovative in HR. So here are some tips on being a better innovator.

How to be a Better Innovator

My response

I think HR leaders have plenty of room to be innovative. However there are several things that must be in place for them to be able to exercise their creativity.

They must be perceived by their CEO as being a leader and an expert. If they do not have that “voice of authority” then why should anyone listen to them? That means they have to be making sure HR operates efficiently and effectively. If they are not doing the basic “blocking and tackling”, to use football parlance, then no one is going to listen to them when they suggest the “hail Mary.”

They must be well educated in the broader field of HR. They need to be well read, not only in HR, but beyond HR. Business practices that go beyond what they are currently doing. Thus it helps to have worked at other places or be someone who has wide ranging contacts that they can draw from, preferably they possess both.

They have to have backbone. They have to be able to make a case for trying something new, have the conviction to back up their decision and have the nerve to face the adversity if the sh*t hits the fan.

They have to understand that HR is a system and realize and try to foretell what will happen in other areas when they introduce innovation or creativity in another.

Visualizing a different world

Part of being an innovator in any field, not just HR, is that you have to be able to visualize a different future than the one you and your company may be headed to today. VP of Strategy & Development for faberNovel, Cyril Vart, wrote a blog called 5 Reason Why Innovators Should be Reading More Scifi and Fewer Tech blogs. Monsieur Vart says that in order for innovators to have a different perspective on the future they need to read science fiction. As an employee of an innovation agency he has taken his own and advice and two-thirds of his reading is in the sci-fi genera. Why? Because as he says, “By definition, a sci-fi story is about the future.”  Science fiction authors are all about visualizing a different world and often that world involves the world of work. Vart gives us five reasons to look at sci-fi. These include:

As stated, sci-fi is all about the future. It creates worlds and gives pictures of disruptive innovation on a societal scale. As he says “It provides me with coherent, complete worlds where a finished innovation is used by an actual society.”

Sci-fi is about disruptive “almost there” technologies. Many sci-fi authors are also scientists or walk in the hard science circles. So you may be seeing descriptions of technologies that are not all that far way. Even something like Iron Man uses a technology in a talking system that Siri could evolve into. I saw the new movie Loopertoday. It is a vision of the future, albeit not necessarily a nice one, but some of the technology presented was pretty cool and not all that far-fetched.

Reading sci-fi is not just an exercise in pleasure reading. Because of some of the complex notions in it requires you to do some analysis, thus sharpening your faculties. Is dealing with the issues of someone from another world all that much different than dealing with someone from the other side of the world?

Sci-fi by its nature is solutions oriented. Difficult challenges must be solved. As Vart says “Sci-fi has to…. Solve how do people eat, communicate, move, sleep, gather resources, consume, etc.” We can learn how to tackle workplace problems in this manner.

Lastly, sci-fi is storytelling. I have written several times on storytelling in HR here, here and here. Being able to sell your innovation(s) requires you to be a good storyteller so your team can imagine the new future. Why not learn from master storytellers?

The next time you are feeling stale and non-innovative spend some time reading about innovative ideas outside of the world of business. Put a few sci-fi blogs on your reading list and break out some books by Asimov, Doctorow, Clark or any other sci-fi writer. Who knows you may even enjoy it.

About the Author:

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, writer, speaker and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc He has been in the field of HR for 30 years as both practitioner and consultant. He specializes in compliance issues for his small business clients. He is the author of the blog HR Observations which can be found at and he has been writing blog posts on a full spectrum of HR topics for almost seven years. He is an active user of Twitter and can be found at @mikehaberman or @HRComplianceGuy. He has been an instructor in HR for 14 years and has helped many people achieve their PHR or SPHR during that time.

Posted in

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions


  1. Josh Tolan says

    Great post! In today’s increasingly digital world, HR really needs to keep innovating just like every other industry. This can come in many forms and depends on what would work best for the position and company. For example, more recruiters are using social media to find top talent where they live online. Other companies are using video interviews to cut down on travel costs for far away employees or to save time scheduling. So there are still plenty of innovations to be found in the HR space.

  2. Kes Thygesen says

    Interesting spin on innovation! And it gave me a laugh! But yes, sci-fi sure can spur some creative thinking. And your original inquirer was wrong — there is plenty of room for innovation in HR still. Look at all the new systems cropping up for HR and recruiters — the ATS is evolving, employee referral programs are changing, digital and mobile are getting bigger. There are so many options to find a pocket of intuition and originality.


Newest Jobs in HR & Recruiting

Atrium is hiring a HR Operations Coordinator (Boston, MA) [Click to View]

TERRA Staffing Group is hiring a Recruiting Coordinator | Great Seattle Location (Seattle, WA) [Click to View]

The Mom Project is hiring a Human Resources Specialist (100% Remote) ( Boston, MA) [Click to View]

Catapult Learning is hiring a Talent & HR Coordinator (Remote) (Atlanta, GA) [Click to View]

Ultimate Staffing is hiring a Talent Recruiter (jr27) (Minneapolis, MN) [Click to View]

Pin It on Pinterest