Article -> Innovation Can Originate Anywhere
Date Added: January 2007
Employees are a unique set of individuals with valuable competencies and methods, which unfortunately, go unnoticed. Yet, your organization benefits from acknowledging these unique perspectives. Employees’ individual ideas may be your greatest source of innovation, the mechanism which initiates change, eliminates stagnation and averts failure. Look at your organization like an evolving species, capable of changing. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” These employee ideas could be just the information needed to ensure innovation and your organization’s success.
The first step towards gathering employee input is to eliminate the personal ego of leadership. Remember, the role of innovator is not a role held exclusively by leaders. Rather, innovation is a task involving all members of your organization. Encourage them to look for improvement in each of their personal processes, as well as those throughout the organization.
To begin, a comfortable process to gain insight must be implemented by leadership. Otherwise, innovation suffers by not having full organizational support. The ideas of others should be embraced and utilized, if not as solutions, then as building blocks to the eventual end product.1
Understanding your employees’ creative strengths will help leaders understand where and how certain responses or specific ideas develop. It is important to inform employees of the innovative process and develop their understanding that innovation is based on assessing the current situation and how it can be improved in all areas. It is equally important to pursue in-depth thinking from employees and ensure them they will not be punished or judged when making innovative suggestions.
Every process has its speed bumps and it must be understood the innovation process will have its share of failures and mistakes. When a mistake occurs, unfortunately, no learning occurs. This is why mistakes are often repeated and improvement is rarely made. On the other hand, a failure is a learning experience: something negative occurs and the individual learns from the experience and it does not happen again. An important lesson in the importance of learning from failures is embodied by Abraham Lincoln. Abe’s career was a series of failures; in business, politics and to some degree, in his personal life. However, he did not treat these as mistakes, rather learning opportunities, and he went on to great success. It is important to promote change and learning to avoid mistakes and promote innovation.
A prime way to encourage ideas is to plan a comfortable, structured meeting or forum designed specifically for employees to share innovative ideas. This will serve as a “dreaming session” where no idea, big or small, will be overlooked. To ensure the success of this forum, plan to communicate to employees why their innovations are needed and to gather any preliminary thoughts.
Through this process, employees will surely have a plethora of ideas ranging from tweaks on current items to ingenious problem solving creativity. What is important to note, is those small tweaks, no matter how minor they seem, can create tremendous cost savings or revenue possibilities. Imagine one minor change in an accounting system that could drastically reduce your accounts receivable.
Giving employees the opportunity to freely express themselves in an unusual way can bring the most out of them creatively. Not only does this collaboration lead to empowerment and remind employees their ideas are appreciated, it also reminds employees that their leaders are willing to listen and utilize the ideas of others; not driven by personal ego.