This October, Innovation is the theme for the CMMA National Conference in Nashville. Recently, David Burkus wrote in the Harvard Business Review, “…in most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there. It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.” He says there is a “negative bias against creativity” in uncertain times and I, and I’m sure many of you, are living through uncertain times in your organization. http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/07/innovation_isnt_an_idea_proble.html

Many businesses utilize a form of internal social networking for collaboration and employee engagement. Years ago, we explored a program, Yammer, as a solution to the assertion that, “we need to be cutting edge, we need a new idea …” comment from one of the directors of our sales development team. He wanted his managers to communicate with each other to develop ideas and strategies in a more collaborative way than email provided. Our Yammer experiment lasted for a month, and died a slow death.

Then, our training team pursued an tool that would allow them to collaborate, share best practices, access training tools and videos, and develop solutions to common challenges. They too re-examined the use of Yammer. Once again, the department didn’t have a firm plan to go along with this tool. Subsequently, it produced, three months of “inspirational messaging” from one Senior Manager, and a couple “selfie” pictures from team members. No one utilized the training videos we had in the file base.

Finally, the groups that manage our Contact Center staffing and Workforce Management teams came to me with the same challenge as the aforementioned work groups. Once we had a firm plan and an inclusive process for working in this collaborative environment, Yammer turned out to be the right idea after all. Now we share best practices via self-produced video trainings and developed a community of people throughout the company who share a common goal and mission. With some of these “training videos” they’ve prompted our Contact Center training group to integrate some of these ideas into formal processes. To date, it has saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in staffing time and training adjustments.

Ultimately, we often need to take the time to re-evaluate an existing idea and determine if it can be reworked, repurposed, or utilized by others within the organization. Innovation may be as simple as seeing the good ideas already in front us, maybe not for what they are… but what they might become. To Burkas’ point, “It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem.”

Article contributed by Gerry Harris, CMMA Board of Directors