Imagine this scenario- you just learnt that someone in your organization had an idea which was ground breakingly innovative, and had the potential to turn around the loss making entity. No big deal there, except that the idea went undiscovered for 32 long years!
This actually happened in a yarn manufacturing unit, which was suffering from yarn breakage problems and so losing markets ( Kanter, HBR 10 Essential Reads). A newly hired executive, who believed that innovative ideas can come from everywhere encouraged people to speak up. An immigrant worker suggested an idea, and when asked how long did he have this idea, he answered, “32 years”.
Nobody had heard about this idea, because nobody had asked!
Innovation can come from every direction, not only top down, and that was my take away. Serendipity, that same evening my father told a story about his practice when designing and manufacturing a product for his customers. My father has been an engineering expert for the last 40 years and successfully runs his own company. He makes sure that the welder, and the lathe worker are part of the initial product design and estimation, and one day when he and his foreman were ideating on a product, it is this welder who identified that the rod was thick, and not suitable for what they were thinking, and suggested an option to make this work!
A lesson in innovation right in my own home!
Just take away a few things such as-1. Ask
2. Be open to ideas from anywhere
3. Do not reject anything before having examined it thoroughly
4. Smart people are all around you, ask and ask again, this time for their opinion
5. If you have the power to authorize, and you believe the idea makes sense..prototype.
This does seem over-simplified now, does it not? Well, use all the innovation models you wish while making sure you implement the first four points always.
As a Learning and Talent Management professional, I see big lessons learned here. In this supremely ‘interactive’ age, are you harnessing the potential and knowledge of all the employees of your company?
Think about an opportunity here to be able to impact Learning and Development of employees, business goals and strategy of the organization as a whole, a cultural shift from ‘innovation is top down’, and Talent retention and management.
In subsequent posts, I want to dig deeper into Innovation, Learning and Talent Management.
Now back to my coffee at Starbucks in Times Square, NYC.