“An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity.” — Winston Churchill. To me, an optimist… innovation is all about seeing opportunities as you go through your daily routine – the things you read, the people you meet and hopefully few calamities!
Innovation is anything but new. Many years ago I read an article that basically stated that many organizations focus on addressing problems, the most successful focus on raising the bar. The opportunities we’ve embraced over the years have kept us a value to our organization. We have always seemed to have “that person” who was always curious and had the drive to push new processes or technologies. As we move forward with fewer people, even “that person” is overwhelmed by his workload with little time to think about anything else.
How do we change that? How do we ensure that innovation continues to happen? One of the ways we can do this is by creating a culture where innovation thrives. Building an environment through the effective use of people provides the competitive edge needed to build value within the organization. I am eager to attend the CMMA Fall Conference in Nashville to find out more about creating a culture of innovation – what I’m doing right and where I could improve. Here are some of the things we’ve determined in my department over the years:
If passion exists, nurture it. Look for small ways to give employees, at every level, the opportunity and encouragement to follow their interests and express their unique talents. As busy as we’ve become with recent downsizing, it is important to set time aside to try new things. I encourage reading trade magazines, networking with local company peers and visiting local companies as ways to inspire innovation. Finding out what other people are doing to solve their problems can often trigger a completely different solution to one of your problems or a new opportunity.
Have a goal to work toward. Ideas can come from anywhere to accomplish a variety of things but we’ve found that some direction helps. At our annual planning meeting we talk about things we can do in the next twelve months to provide greater value to our organization. This can be in terms of services we provide, programs we start or abandon, or technologies we introduce. We have some goals that we continue to work on such as our digital infrastructure. And, we have new ones that are added such as mobile delivery. So mobile delivery becomes a trigger when we meet with peers or vendors and something is said that ignites ideas to move us forward.
The leader’s role. Fortunately it’s no different than a leader would normally do. Inspire the team to keep moving toward the desired goal; keep everyone focused on the priorities; provide assistance and opportunities for funding as warranted, set the example of ways innovation can be achieved, and reward those individuals who have gone the extra mile.
I would be interested in your comments or stories around building a culture of innovation. How have you achieved it in your organization?
This article was contributed by Steve Tingley, CMMA Board of Directors
Jeremy Person said:
One of the things I’m seeing is many companies offer avenues for employees to innovate or present new ideas. I think one of the problems today is companies are doing more with less and as a result as new ideas come in the applicable team overseeing that current responsibility is asked if they can accomplish it. Many times it could be possible but when a team is already overwhelmed they need to “push it off” a few months or often years. When these projects are pushed off it means that innovative new concept is no longer innovative. A big way to help create a culture of innovation to me is to cut as much “red tape” as possible. Often the lack of red tape is why start-ups are out innovating big corporations. The processes of large companies get in their way and they stumble over themselves.
Tom Morse said:
Terrific article on a very important subject. In today’s “do more with less” environment finding ways to innovate can be difficult. Many organizations encourage employees to carve out a percentage of time to work on independent activities. From the C-suite this looks great, but to make it work in practice front-line managers must make it a priority. That often means making tough decisions and setting priorities. When this can be accomplished, an organization can “raise the bar” as you point out in your post.