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Sunday, 30 December 2018

What Are You Doing About Innovation? You Need to Take it Very Seriously!

“If an idea isn’t dangerous then it has no right to be called an idea”

Oscar Wilde postulated this thought and it seems to me that he got it (as usual) just about right.

Sensible leaders, if they have anything about them would welcome innovative ideas from anyone in the business and indeed take steps to implement them if they were to the benefit of the organisation.

Sadly, if the idea has merit, it can only too often be rebranded as belonging to a superior or, heaven forfend, the leader him/herself.  It is a great way to stem the flow of new ideas.

Oscar’s view was that an idea needs to be, as he put it, dangerous and we can rewrite that as innovative or daunting or impractical or even revolutionary.

All of these responses are the province of the nay-sawyer who will always find a reason NOT to do something if it will cause them effort or which would involve change.  They much prefer the even tenor of existence to the potential excitement of change.

After all, if an idea isn’t likely to engender change or even make waves, then it can be implemented and probably no-one would notice the difference.

It is the big ideas, the big change agents that can make a significant difference to the success of a business and often to the people in it. Conversely it is those that will cause the most turmoil among the non- believers.

The key is to have a system that encourages the flow of ideas, assesses them independently and then, if the assessors agree, implements them positively and, most importantly, visibly.

There is nothing more depressing than for someone in the business to have an idea for change which is then pooh-poohed and quietly shelved because implementation would cause problems.  All of this, of course, ignores the possibility of benefit to the business.

I know of an automotive manufacturer which has a very formalised way of generating ideas and which has proved to be extremely successful.   In essence, anyone in the business can put forward an idea for change that must include potential savings or productivity improvements properly costed. 

An “innovation” department that is tasked to search for methods either in manufacturing or administration, and that are likely to show value to the business then assesses the idea.

All ideas are published so that everyone in the business is aware of them and if the innovation department decides to proceed, then the idea is allocated a budget and implementation commences.

It may all seem formal but it does eliminate the “not invented here” syndrome that is the bane of innovators everywhere and the fact that the whole system is transparent makes people feel safe to put their ideas forward.

And what is in it for those people?  Certainly not financial gain because there is no offer on the table.  Rather they are shown to be interested, and innovative and this is publicised throughout the business on noticeboards, and on the company intranet. 

Revolutionary?  Yes, it is, but all good ideas are revolutionary.  Just refer back to Oscar Wilde’s maxim and rewrite it to say so.


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