Does HR kill innovation?

Forbes has just published an article called “Why does HR too often kill innovation?“. The thrust of the article is that whenever a line-manager has a great idea and wants to try it out, HR kills it through silly processes and requests seemingly because  HR “tend to treat experiments with considerable distaste” because they “want to protect their own turf”.  In short, HR kills innovation.

I disagree. I do not see any evidence that HR dislike experiments and only wants to protect their own turf per se. I simply don’t see that. My experience is that HR support this idea of doing things differently (they may just not know how to do it). That is not to say that (many) company policies work against innovation and that HR may be the source of some of these policies, but that is a different matter altogether.

However – and there is a big however – I also don’t see HR promote, support and encourage innovation. Not in HR and not in the rest of the business. And here I agree with the author of the article; HR must adopt a new mindset towards innovation. And this new mindset springs from an understanding of the business and thinking strategic .

Dave Ulrich identifies six competencies in his 2012 Global HR Competence Framework. The fifth is “HR innovators and integrators“. This is very much focused on being able to innovate the HR services and deliveries to support the business. It does not extend to the point from the Forbes article about policies standing in the way of innovation but perhaps they should.

When you search literature and blogs for ‘HR’ and ‘Innovation’ it is  not a lot comes up. A notable exception is Jon Ingram’s Strategic HCM blog where he has several blogs on innovation in HR. And perhaps in his blog title is the clue; for HR to support innovation it must be strategically focused – it must have a focus on Human Capital.

I think what the Forbes article is really saying is that company culture (and too many policies) is killing innovation – not HR. And on that point I totally agree.

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