Now when the trainee program is coming to an end, it is time to summarize our observations and learnings. One important topic I want to reflect upon is innovations.
Innovations allow companies to stay afloat in constantly changing world and thus are often one of main focus areas. So they are for Stora Enso which is takes its roots in a very traditional industry but is constantly rethinking itself by optimizing operations and searching for new products and markets.
No one has a doubt innovations are important. But never the less, too often people don't welcome them: innovations are bringing change which is scary as all unknown is.
From my personal observations, innovations in any company can be triggered by open communication, and more specifically, knowledge sharing. Especially it concerns communication between functions and divisions: Do they do something we could do as well? Did they have issues we are facing right now? Do they have an IT tool we could adopt?
Cross-functional communication can also help to collect observations and ideas not directly related to employee's job. Otherwise these ideas can be never spoken out or die at birth as "This is not our business. This is what other function is paid for".
Another important factor of innovativeness in my opinion is the leadership style itself. By adopting a trusting, democratic leadership style, a manager allow his employees to figure out his own way to solve a problem. It is also crucial to give your employees freedom to drive initiatives. This very much includes providing space for new initiatives between daily routine. A well-known example is Google's policy of allowing employees to work on whatever they want 20% of the time.
From employee's perspective, it is sometimes necessary to stop and take a look at the bigger picture: Where can my knowledge add most value? What should the priorities be? What will matter in 5-year time? Day-to-day tasks often feel overwhelming and leave you with little time and energy to think of new ideas and drive initiatives. However, doing so doesn't only add value to the company but also allows employees to realize their potential, feel valuable and satisfied with their work.