Innovation is a term we hear a lot these days. Companies realize that they must make changes in order to keep up and survive, or overtake their competition. For many folks, innovation tends to focus on the latest technologies available, but in fact, innovation is not restricted to technology. Innovation is embodies the mindset of change, that is embedded in corporate culture, and applies everything and every situation.
Yes, innovation can focus on new products and services, but it can also focus on other areas like the methodologies and practices used to transact business. Innovation can focus on ideas to change the way current way-of-working are done that may not deliver a new product, but will cut operational costs. Innovation can come from, and many times benefits from the formation of cross functional teams providing different perspectives on a problem or idea that results in a new process, modifications to process, new products, and much more.
When I hear people discuss innovation, it reminds me of my days at RCA in the 1980s. There was an internal program called Improved Quality (IQ) where cross-functional teams would form to act on employee suggestions, develop new ideas for products and processes, and work with Senior Management to implement those recommendations. The key to it all, was having a culture that embraced change, encouraged employee feedback, and provided reward for the return these innovations brought the company. One such innovation was better management of landscaping that allowed lawn mowers to cut a greater amount and minimize the amount or trimming that was required after the lawn was cut. Estimated cost saving to the company were around $30k per year.
In My View
Cultivating the corporate culture to embrace change and innovation is not likely going to be an overnight task. Employees may find it difficult if the current culture is one of do the job without open communication. It requires true support from the C-Level executives not just lip service. It requires open communication without fear of retribution if the wrong thing is said or being criticized for seeming to be too far out of the box. This happened to me when I had my first handheld device, the Palm IIC. (Remember that one?) It was a hand-held device with a cover to protect the screen. In a meeting with the R&D folks, I told them it would be great if they combined this with my cell phone so I could carry only one device. They laughed, said it was a silly idea because no one would want to talk into their hand-held computer, that is what phones are for. Hmm, was I to far out? I wish I had the financial backing needed to have acted on it.
Start cultivating by opening communications and accepting that all ideas and suggestions are valid. While they may not be acted upon, they are valid. Everything we see, use, and own came from some innovation that somebody thought of. Who know’s your companies next innovation may be a far out winner.
Bob Larrivee is President and Founder of Bob Larrivee Consultancy, and a recognized expert in the application of advanced technologies and process improvement to solve business problems and enhance business operations. In his career, Bob has led many projects and authored hundreds of eBooks, Industry Reports, Blogs, Articles, and Infographics. In addition, he has served as host and guest Subject Matter Expert on a wide variety of Webinars, Podcasts, Virtual Events, and lectured at in-person seminars and conferences around the globe.