How to develop innovative work behaviours in any organisation

How to Develop Innovative Work Behaviours through Self-Leadership

innovative work behaviours

Developing innovative work behaviours using self-leadership

As the pace of change picks up, organisations across the globe are looking not only to deal with change in a positive and productive manner, but also

  • improve performance,
  • build competitive advantage,
  • be innovative,
  • profitable and sustainable.

As a result, organisations and companies are constantly reaching out for methods to enable them to achieve these results, in what are often hyper-competitive and fast-moving contexts. As a result there is a lot of interest in how to develop  innovative work behaviours.





One of the more promising areas of research to assist in this, has been work to identify the factors that predict innovative work behaviours. Unsurprisingly, innovation in an organisation comes about through what is known as innovative work behaviours.

Innovation is more than just finding or creating new ideas and products. It includes the process of spotting and capitalising on opportunities created either by other technologies or situations, and developing innovative systems, working practices and thinking that can give an organisation or a company a competitive edge.





The skills involved in innovative work behaviours 

As a result, innovative work behaviours have been shown, in a range of previous studies, to be the key to the range of innovations that organisations need in order to stay on top. Innovative working behaviours incorporate a range of skills, thinking and attitudes that include

  • problem recognition,
  • ideation or idea generation,
  • the ability to get support for ideas and influence others’ thinking,
  • the ability to be able to build coalitions in order for ideas to be accepted and action to be taken,
  • the ability to be able to get agreement to test and develop ideas,
  • as well as implementing and embedding the innovations.


As can be seen, there is are wide range of skills and abilities involved in innovative working behaviours. All of these skills and abilities are often encapsulated as a three-stage process:


  1. Idea generation or ideation
  2. Idea promotion
  3. Idea realisation.




Self-leadership and innovative work behaviours


Among the range of factors, self-leadership has been considered to have a significant influence on innovative work behaviours. Self-leadership has been found to be a significant factor in a range of work aspects that enable individuals and groups to direct, drive and lead themselves, without external influence, to achieve a range of outcomes for themselves and their organisation. Self-leadership strategies have been found to coalesce around three main dimensions:


  1. Behaviour focused strategies. This is where individuals and teams manage their own behaviours in a way that helps to improve their own self-awareness. This in turn enables individuals and groups to be able to cope and navigate tasks when the going gets tough.
  2. Natural or self-motivated reward strategies. The development of a series of internally referenced reward strategies has been found to be important to help people and teams to keep themselves motivated, to find areas of the work that they enjoy and manage their work more effectively.
  3. Thought pattern strategies. Thought pattern strategies refer to self-developed patterns of thinking that keep people engaged, interested and motivated to work. These are in effect emotion regulation strategies aimed at keeping things positive in the workplace.



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Until now, there have been few studies looking at whether self-leadership is actually a significant factor in the development of innovative work behaviours. A new study has just been published (2018) the aim of which was to find out whether self-leadership does actually have a significant impact on innovative work behaviours in organisations.


research into innovative work behaviours


The study


The researchers, conducted a series of studies looking at and measuring both the self-leadership dimensions and innovative work behaviours of 144 participants across an organisation in 2016 and 2017.



The study found that self-leadership does have a statistically significant positive correlation with innovative work behaviours. They also discovered that about 20% of the variance of innovative work behaviours are predicted and accounted for by self-leadership.


How to get into flow at work


The researchers discovered that, of the three dimensions of self-leadership, thought pattern strategies (the ability of individuals and teams to remain positive) has the biggest impact on helping to develop innovative working behaviours. This means that developing an individual’s or a team’s self-leadership capability should in theory increase innovative working behaviours, if the culture and organisation supports this.


The researchers wanted to know whether developing positive thought pattern strategies and greater levels of self-leadership through training increase innovative work behaviours…


Secondary study: Can training increase self-leadership and innovative work behaviours?

The researchers wanted to find out whether developing positive thought pattern strategies and helping workers to develop greater levels of self-leadership through training would have a positive impact on the development of innovative work behaviours across the organisation. To this end, the researchers developed a training course that was specifically designed to increase individuals’ self-leadership and, in particular, their thought pattern strategies.


The researchers looked at 14 people who went through the training and 14 people (as a control group) who did not. They measured both groups before and after the intervention, both for levels of self-leadership and innovative work behaviours to measure any difference.



The study found that the training in self-leadership behaviours (thought pattern strategies) did significantly increase self-management behaviours. They also found that this increase in self-management behaviours also resulted in a significant increase in innovative work behaviours.


What this means is that it is possible, through training, to be able to develop individuals’ self-leadership capability by helping them to develop positive thought pattern strategies and that, if successful, this is highly likely to result in higher levels of innovative work behaviours (if the culture and organisation supports this).


Unfortunately, this study does not detail the nature of the training course given to the employees. We will, however, endeavour to find this out.


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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page