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Friday, July 4, 2008

Innovation: What it means for you

I’m reading a group of articles in Inc. magazine about innovation. Apparently there are a fair number of consulting companies that specialize in innovation. I’m not sure how that works. Hire somebody to be creative for you, or something, I guess. Nothing wrong with that. As I say, do what you’re good at and outsource the things you’re not good at. That applies to creativity and innovation too. But that’s not what I find interesting in the articles.

What struck me is one article in particular, about how these innovation companies keep their employees thinking creatively and innovatively. I work a lot in the area of process improvement, and I advocate creativity during process improvement activities. I also advocate taking care of your employees and fostering a work environment where employees want to be, not just someplace they go just to get a paycheck. It turns out that the same things that these innovation companies do to keep their employees thinking creatively and innovatively are the same things you should do to keep your employees engaged and creative in their everyday work and in process improvement activities.

I tell people that if your employees aren’t making mistakes, you’re doing something wrong. Because if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying anything new. If you’re not trying anything new, you’re doing the same old things. You can’t expect different results if you’re doing the same old things, and you certainly can’t grow, improve, and become more successful and profitable.

You won’t be able to do all the things that these innovation companies do for their employees, but you can do many of them. You can, and should, encourage your employees to try new things and allow them to make mistakes. One of the innovation companies even presents an award to the employee who made the biggest or best mistake, which means they give an award for failure. If you punish failure, no one will ever try anything new. If you reward it, people will try all sorts of grand new things. You don’t want people making the same mistakes over and over, of course. I’m talking about trying new things in the context of making improvements to processes, products, and service offerings. Try it, and reap the rewards.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insightful post. As an employee in an "innovation company", I couldn't agree more. We are making a great effort to "walk the way we talk" in the way the company is managed. In the near future, we plan to write more about it in our innovation blog at:
Hope you will find it useful,

aditya said...

I am a supporter of outsourcing but not of outsourcing innovation. As long as companies outsource only non-core operations, I don’t see why there should be a problem. It helps them concentrate on what really matters. Also the outsourced job is done with better efficiency by the BPO or KPO involved reducing the price. This in the long run should help innovation. Right?

Steve said...

I agree with you about outsourcing non-core functions, but for many organizations innovation is not a core competency. You can be very good at branding and marketing, creating a buzz, and coordinating operations, but not good at developing products and services, producing or delivering, or even with being creative and innovative. Outsource that. Some organizations plan and create well, but can't and don't execute. Some don't plan or create well, but execute excellently. That's one reason why you have these innovation companies. They're good at what they do, then they hand off their ideas to the people who can turn them into products and services and get them to market.

Do you need help planning your finances? said...

for me innovation is adding lil bit to already existing wheel

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