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Feb
13
2012

Let us Expand the Innovation Territory

One of the key strengths of larger organizations is their man power. A large skilled work force contributes their energy, shares ideas, thoughts and vision to help the organization to grow. However when it comes to Innovations are the organizations making the most of their man power?

For example, if I manage a team of 50 individuals, as collective result I would wish my team comes up with at least 50 Innovation Ideas per year. If so, I am left with plenty of good choices to analyze and implement the right ones and reap the benefit for my team and for my customer.

However in reality at many instances I have struggled to make the team to think beyond their ‘defined’ work and come up with some ‘new’ stuff. I believe this is a commonly faced challenge across many teams and organizations.

 

Our Team – Our primary source of Innovations

I would divide a large team of individuals as following groups,

Group 1 – People who are passionate to invent or reinvent for a positive impact and somehow will find time to transform their vision into reality

Group 2 – People who can innovate, but will treat the Innovation as an ‘office work’, making them to innovate would not be an easy task

Group 3 -People who think ‘Innovation’ as an alien technology and not relevant to them

For example, this is how I would divide a group of 100 (this is my personal projection) not a survey result :)

 

Innovators in a Team

People fall under Group 1 will be keep doing the invention/re-invention. Whether their voices heard or not or how busy they are, they will just continue what they do. The reason could be simple; they are driven by their passion not by their duties.

Whereas getting some effective contribution from Group 2 or Group 3 will be the real challenge. It does not mean that they are totally out of loop, I have come across many who may not good in contributing their energy for a project innovation, but they are so Innovative while handling their personal situations. How could we make the most of people from Group 2/3? In the following sections I have shared my view about this.

 

Is it all about money?

One of the colleagues asked me this question, why should I spend my energy to Innovate, what is in it for me. I fulfill my duties as expected by my manager in other words I do what I am paid for. If I innovate something somebody makes money out it and I get a piece of appreciation note. Sounds like a voice of a public?

I wouldn’t blame him at all. Today’s corporate world committed to bring in more business than anything else, so an Idea which is not transformable as revenue source often won’t pass through easily.

If I write a macro to automate a complex search, I would not measure its efficiency just by transforming its results into cost saving for my project, I would first see it as method which saves tons of frustration for a team member to do the same search manually for hours. When I succeed in making the team understand that they are the first beneficiary towards their innovation/discoveries, it is further an easy task for me to motivate them to come up with more such Ideas in future. Very practical, right?

The more time saving techniques we implement into a project increases the team’s comfort level with the project and with their routine work. We will have to let the team to enjoy a benefit of a real innovation just like how they enjoy a project party. People love to involve more with what they enjoy, right? When I could increase the number of Innovations that enhances the standard my project and eventually we end up in bring in cost savings and value-add to the client.

The impact of an Innovation not necessarily to be reported only to the senior management, in my opinion the team behind Innovation and their colleagues should be kept appraised of how it changed the life of many. In other words, we need to make the ‘new innovators’ to realize that how the ‘smallest inventions they come up with makes a big impact’ for everyone else.

 

Let us make the contribution a little more fun

If you organize an Innovation workshop it’s easy to attract the Group 1 from the pool above. But people fall into Group 2/3 simply will not bother to participate; perhaps for them such workshops are nothing more than a theory session. The trend now a day turned towards informal activities such as serious games.

Some of the games suggested here were very impressive and such games could attract a lot of enthusiastic involvement from everyone.

 

‘Well Done!’ may not be enough

At the end of the day the ‘credit’ for all good things goes to the managers (and leadership team). So honestly speaking, a piece of appreciation note doesn’t sound like fair balance to me when everything is done! I feel everyone should make a contribution, doesn’t matter what extend. Be it guiding a team member, identifying a need for invention or facilitating a tool the team always wishing for. This will build better relationships and motivate the team to achieve more.

 

Be it a never ending story

As a final note, empower the team with great stories like Google and Apple. Such companies never rest even when they possess the most dominating products in the market. Take Google search or Apple iPhone, such innovative products again and again reinvented every other day and they always work hard to make them bigger and better. In my opinion, the first guiding principle for any inventor is this – There could be always a better way to do things

 

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