Time, a Culture of Empowerment, Communication & Collaboration
“Many people think that innovation is an activity for innovation specialists and therefore, that it does not apply to their role. A better definition of innovation might be “implemented improvement”, which would include and empower everyone in the organisation to innovate in all kinds of ways – incremental, radical and disruptive. One of the most famous exponents of this way of thinking is Toyota and its suggestion system, as described by Yuza Yasuda, author of “40 Years, 20 Million Ideas: The Toyota Suggestion System”.” - Dee Carri
Innovation, as opposed to an idea, is something that's going to change things, generally in a positive direction. I remember reading at some point that the difference between an idea and innovation, is that idea is cash to idea, and innovation is idea to cash. Perhaps an idea occurs when you're looking at a risk and trying desperately to 'solve the problem' and innovation occurs when someone is looking at the same issue but referring to it as an opportunity. We also occasionally innovate in such a way that an entirely new product or way of doing something is identified.
Innovation and disruption are of great value to either remain competitive or gain an edge, and with companies hiring innovation officers and 'disruptive' being one of the most used words at the Dublin Web Summit this year, we've obviously somewhat realised the importance of it. But I'm not sure all organisations have yet come to realise the huge scope of where and when it occurs, who's going to do it and how to create a space and a culture that enables it.
Anyone in an organisation can innovate and it's probably best if they do.
Innovative ideas don't have to solve all of a company's problems in one fell swoop. There are areas that can benefit from innovation at every level of an organisation. If you're at level one, but you like to be efficient and you spot a more efficient way to do something, is that not innovation? Does that not have a knock on effect?
Let's take a janitor of a building as an example. Perhaps a mop has always been kept in a press far from where John uses it. But there's a press closer to where he actually carries out the mopping that contains other supplies. Swapping what is kept where is going to free up a lot of time if he's mopping once or twice a day. So I would like to think that John would feel like he had the authority to take all of the things from one press and move them to the other or had the time to go and check with someone that it was ok to go ahead with that. But that's going to take time out of what may be a tight schedule. Maybe John is so overloaded with work, that while he knows it would be a good idea, he hasn't found the time to do it.
But let's say he does. John finds the time and now has slightly more time or is just under less pressure than before and finished on time every day rather than ten minutes after. With slightly more time, and a happier day at work, John decides that really they should have recycling bins as well as general trash and brings this idea to someone. Once approved, it makes the company more environmentally friendly overall and cuts some of the costs. It's actually even a step taken that's mentioned in their end-of-year Green Report that they send out to all their eco-conscious consumers and contributes to marketing their company as environmentally aware.
You could take any person in any level of an organisation, examine their role and find room for these kinds of changes and the benefits work their way up. However checking on each person in an organisation one by one is unrealistic and time consuming. But improving management of processes across the organisation can contribute to an entire culture change and begin to give people the extra time they need in their day to change something.
Tips for Innovation and Inspiration
Time: If people are overloaded with tasks, even if they see room for small innovative changes, perhaps they won't implement them or suggest them if they feel it will initially put a greater burden on them to make that change. Organisations need to make it easy to suggest improvements and spread the burden of implementing change. Great management of both people and processes needs to be in place to support this, as opposed to merely deciding and announcing this is now the case.
Culture of Empowerment: Allow people to really own their roles and responsibilities. Inspiration isn't magic, it comes from experience and wanting to find a better way – which I think many people are inclined to do. Value peoples' experience within their role and their tasks if there's an idea. This is a cultural necessity that may be created and supported by Innovation Officers, Operational Excellence Officers and Quality Officers working with all levels of the organisation providing coaching and processes to make this a reality.
Communication & Collaboration: In my own experience, I've seen amazing ideas come up in face to face conversations much more frequently than in email or other digital exchanges. While I would argue that innovation isn't magical, there is something in collaboration that may be close to magic. Communication and collaboration may be as simple as an unplanned conversation over coffee in a break room between two people in an organisation who've never talked before. Management can provide the infrastructure to enable collaboration and connectivity by organising or implementing communities of practice, collaborative tools and an easy-to-use feedback system. Without the correct infrastructure, there is a danger that suggestions and ideas will die on the vine.
Watch the video below for how we use TPSoP® to help organisations become more efficient and innovative and ensure every day processes at all levels are aligned to the company goals and aspirations.