Innovation – many organizations believe they are innovative but what are they doing differently? What makes them believe their team is being innovative with solutions?
Organizations today often have deeply embedded ways of working. Staff are very used to the processes and procedures that govern how their workday flows. Most people have difficulty with change even if they don’t realize it and organizations really don’t encourage the average worker to step outside of the boundary to be innovative. In reality, organizations often stifle innovation and they don’t even realize it.
Three “innovation killers"...
1) If key staff are often working at their desk, they are productive. There are a fair number of leaders that believe this is true even in a world where mobility is now the norm. If key staff are working at their desk all the time, they may be getting their core work done but their ability to innovate is dramatically diminished. They are in an office. Why aren’t they looking at the customer experience by observing how they actually use a product or service? How are they brainstorming ideas with their coworkers? How are these staff members driving change? Recognizing that some of this work can be done through remote means, if the staff is in an office, they have a unique opportunity for direct observation and face time with colleagues. Even in a digital world, being at your desk all the time doesn’t encourage innovation.
2) Asking for suggestions for improvement but creating too many obstacles for anyone to use the system and when they do submit a suggestion, it is never acknowledged or they receive a “canned auto-reply”. Many companies ask for suggestions. In order to submit a suggestion, they require staff to request a username and password or a staff member must send their suggestion to a generic distribution list. If there are too many obstacles or if the actions of leadership do not align with encouraging suggestions, staff will not bother.
3) Failure is never an option. Many organizations have so much structure that testing any potential solution requires tremendous bureaucracy. It isn’t worth it. How can an organization be innovative if they can’t test and experiment? Failure must be used as a learning opportunity. While organizations must protect certain aspects of their business, many go way too far and without realizing it, they build policies, procedures, and reward systems that focus on maintaining the status quo.
If any of the “innovation killers” even vaguely sound familiar, it may be time to really analyze what your company considers innovation. Many organizations say they are innovative but what they are really doing is solving problems within the boundaries of their existing systems. What may seem innovative is merely just problem solving. Once the problem is solved, leaders feel relief and often, the “hero” that saved the day is praised for finding an innovative solution.
In part 2 of “Are You Killing or Encouraging Innovation”, we discuss three ways to encourage innovation. Encouraging innovation may require you to step out of the box. Are you ready?
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