The Innovative Leadership Network (ILN) is an Employee Resource Group with a mission to enhance the working culture of the National Park Service by fostering creativity, leadership development, communication and idea sharing, innovative action, and the empowerment of NPS employees at all levels.
Creativity is increasingly recognized as an essential element in overcoming complex problems in our rapidly changing world. This stands in stark contrast to the traditional doctrine of scientific management, which eschews creativity in favor of productivity alone. ILN encourages creative solutions to complex issues by fostering a safe working space for all members and allowing them the freedom to make, and learn from, mistakes; separating the people from the problem and discouraging the feeling of being judged or criticized by one’s peers.
Leadership is the No. 1 issue facing organizations around the world, with 85% rating it as “urgent” or “important.” Yet only 14% say they do an “excellent” job developing leaders. The NPS is no exception. ILN promotes leadership development through teamwork, creative decision-making & collaborative action, and empowers members to step up and take the lead on ILN projects and tough issues. This early-career experience helps develop the skills future NPS leaders will need.
Review of FEVS scores reveal communication to be a critical attribute in NPS workplace satisfaction. ILN cultivates peer-to-peer communication between network members and encourages radical candor, accountability, and crucial conversations among teams over a wide range of issues and challenges. ILN’s network offers an alternative communications tool, promoting information flow between park management and employees.
According to recent research, there is an 81% correlation between collaboration and innovation. Idea-sharing recognizes that in an increasingly complex and interdependent world, no one leader has all the solutions. ILN functions as a community of practice, encouraging collaborative leadership, psychological safety and informed risk-taking, as well as open communication. In this manner, we increase the likelihood of breakthrough innovative solutions from all network members, regardless of age, tenure, background, or position. An open, transparent flow of information is critical to encouraging this process and including everyone.
Ideas are an important first step, but putting innovative ideas into action is where most change efforts fail. ILN practices an innovation/empowerment model. This works through members relinquishing some influence or control over a project by empowering someone else. As this happens, the network grows stronger and more people step up and take action. When Washington relinquished his commission following the War for Independence, rather than make a play for the mantle of King, his influence with the people actually grew because they saw he had their interests at heart.
According to FEVS data, empowerment is the key component to workplace satisfaction. Employees must believe their work has value and must also see a discernible impact on the mission of the NPS. ILN believes empowerment is not something that can be provided by a superior; it must be claimed by the individual. ILN opens pathways for members to contribute to the agency beyond the confines of their position description. Thus providing greater satisfaction and a sense of contribution among all employees.
The intentional network structure of ILN helps foster equality of members across divisions and pay grades. Through this equality, we recognize that great ideas can come from anyone and such ideas should be valued based upon merit, rather than simply one’s position within the agency hierarchy. The network also helps to ensure ideas are widely shared within a diverse and representative cross-section of NPS employees so all may benefit equally.
Interested in learning more about ILN? Email us at email@example.com or join our Innovative Leadership Network group in the Commons!