This is the second of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What do you consider the most important single development in innovation methodology?’. Here is the next perspective in the series:
by Kathy Robison
If your company is following suit in a growing trend and starting an innovation campaign, beware of the pitfalls. Many companies assume they can create a few goals, advertise the idea, provide a bit of training, and expect that greatness will appear.
If it is unbridled success you are after, and you are trying to create a stark competitive advantage, it is critical to start by innovating your management strategy. Asking employees to be innovative and contribute to the next competitive advantage while employing a management strategy left over from the Industrial Revolution is like asking your 1960’s percolating coffee maker to give you a triple shot skinny vanilla latte with extra foam. You will be lucky to get a decent ‘cup of joe’ and a monstrous mess. However, if you are willing to entertain at least some components of a 21st century management strategy, I promise you will likely be blown away by the creativity and innovation that follows.
Hierarchical organizations, not matter how progressive, generally promote a unidirectional flow of information, which hinders the establishment of an innovative organization. Take, for instance, a large multi-national fast food chain that I was recently in discussions with. They wanted to become creative and innovative to ensure they didn’t loose market share in what is a relatively competitive industry. They hired an innovation guru, wrote up a manual on innovation, and then informed all their employees of their new direction. They simply couldn’t understand how 2 years into it, it just wasn’t working. Unfortunately, they are still trying to make their dictatorial strategy work, as they simply couldn’t grasp the idea that the executive team had to make the first move in the game of innovative.
There is no shame, blame, or guilt intended here. We’ve all been doing as we were taught in business school when in comes to organizing and managing companies. The difference now is, we know there is a better way and with it comes higher productivity, greater enjoyment, less turnover, and most importantly the magic that emboldens companies like Patagonia, Best Buy, Zappos, and Dutch Brothers Coffee. All companies who understand that it starts with innovation at the top.
Without creativity, a collaborative flow of information in all directions, and trust, all attempts at suddenly becoming an innovative firm that is competitive in the ever-changing world of the 21st century will likely fail. The essential ingredient for creating an innovative work environment is the courage of the folks at the top to change the rules of the game. With that one ingredient, everything else will come naturally. Not without hard work and dedication, but without friction. Your team will amaze you, inspire you, and keep you humble enough to savor every moment, even the ones that aren’t so great. It is possible to create an environment where failure is understood to be a key to success and support and trust are commonplace.
If you want employees to think creatively, design solutions to fix problems beyond the ones you know about, collaborate, and generally bring their A-game, you must be willing to give them the freedom to do those things in their own way and with their own style. People are only going to give you as much as you believe they can deliver and no more. If you believe your team is invincible and you tell them often, then that is what they will become.
You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘What do you consider the most important single development in innovation methodology?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.
Kathy Robison is the CEO of YURU, (The Guru Is You), dedicated to assisting businesses to realize the full potential of their success through innovative business strategies, executive coaching and leadership development.