« Desktop Google | Main | Creative Crow »


Candace A. York

Reading the comments to Renee's question reminded me of the most important facet of any plan to drive innovation within a company.

That important facet is to actually ACT on the intent to foster innovation. You can do that by simply posing a question about a problem to your teams, and then stepping back to let the ideas gush out.

Many companies approach innovation efforts with an intellectual plan - lots of strategizing, meeting after meeting talking about how we need to innovate, then rolling out some formal plan or method for driving innovation.

It is really much simpler than that. Set yourselves a date within the next two weeks to kick-off an innovation effort in your group. Set up those innovation meetings and begin acting on the intent to uncover the innovative ideas that have been gestating in your team's minds.

Most employees are dying to contribute innovative ideas and strategies, and simply need the opportunity to be heard. But, alas, they are often not asked, or the means by which they are asked are so bureaucracy laden that they will often decline to participate.

My team recently decided for themselves that they needed to step back and spend some time generating new innovative programs and content that could engage our customers, satisfy their needs, and ultimately generating more revenue. They didn't have to be told to do this because my organization has been wise enough to give the team freedom to innovate as a part of their daily jobs. It is simply a part of my team's culture.

But, in this case, we felt that an added focus on innovation was called for in order for the programs to resonate more deeply with our customers, and in order to step up the ladder to greater success.

Within the space of a week, we divided up into teams, and provided access to tools which the teams could "choose" to use to shape their thinking in different ways if they ran into roadblocks. Using the tools was not required. We didn't want to squelch the team's enthusiasm since we have a lot of mavericks on our team.

The teams went off for two weeks to generate ideas (necessary because of the need to schedule this around other work efforts and because the teams were spread in different timezones and geographies).

At the end of that time, each team brought their ideas back to the group, and in informal one hour sessions, explained their ideas to the entire team. After each idea was discussed, all participants took a vote on whether the idea had potential to "leapfrog" our efforts in the marketplace, or provide some function, service or feature that none of our competitors were doing. Leapfrog ideas that made the cut were marked for prioritization later in the week.

Other ideas revealed some pressing process improvement needs that we immediately assigned owners to work on. These didn't make leapfrog status, but all had potential to improve business efficiency, so all got thumbs up, but were moved to a different bucket to monitor through to completion.

At the end of the week, we prioritized all the "leapfrog" ideas, and decided which ones to work on first. After the final vote, we all got busy implementing.

The most important points to consider, however, were that every person in the group was invited to contribute ideas, and no ideas were discounted until the broader team had a chance to discuss it. As each idea received thumbs up or thumbs down in the vote, owners were assigned immediately, and a due date for an action plan to implement was assigned immediately.

In this way, we kept the team moving on the ideas, and within a month, we had made significant progress in moving forward on implementation plans for the leapfrog ideas. Several of these ideas will be implemented by the end of the year, a short two and 1/2 months after initiation.

In closing, let me simply suggest that that teams not bog themselves down in weeks of formal planning on how to kick off an innovation effort. Getting started, even in the most informal way, is the quickest way to get innovative ideas on the table and start moving forward.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe Heads-Up!

  • Subscribe with Bloglines
Blog powered by Typepad