Innovating Innovation

"Innovation Smenovation..." Insights on how to be a catalyst for true change.

The ultimate buzzword in business today. Who's implementing it, and who's utilizing it merely as a resource for slogan'ish (esk) corporate propaganda? It's about creating a culture to revitalize and build upon what works, and strategically assess/implement changes in your teams/organization for the better. Refreshingly inspiring, a face lift of sorts. Stop sinking in mud and exhausting yourself in quick sand, and find a new way to move your feet. It must be congruent to your companies values, goals, and vision to build to anew. It's almost as if the political messages of hope and change interlock (or another business slogan, 'lock step') nowadays. Cliche propaganda aside, if they're merely words, this is a red flag immediately, as your leadership/organization is not practicing what they preach, and these insights fit perfectly not only for innovation, but re hauling your systems levels, communication, and management. I don't want to turn this into an organizational development and leadership seminar, but share from experience what I have found works, proven leaders recommend, and inspire you to be a genuinely engaged/excited person of change! In the following, I not only discuss innovation, but values that are essential ingredients for a successful recipe. Innovation are not merely ideas, but successful organizations have proven it's a lifestyle. Hope it inspires some ideas, resonates with you in some manner, and allows you to marinate on some interesting perspectives. I am not a guru, Dr., or self proclaimed genius that knows it all, but am sharing some pointers from experience, projects, mentors, and proven professionals. Feel free to share your innovation(s) & thoughts!

We are certainly in challenging times. Adapting to change, utilizing resources, and being savvy with your people, supply chain, productivity, vendors, clients, commodities, overhead, inventory, etc. are key. I feel, and always will feel, that people are the greatest value, resource, and asset to invest in with any organization. It's inevitable to attempt to become the fastest, most cost effective, and highest quality all at one time, but if you're merely investing in the picture generated by the financial bottom line, you will fail the sustainability factor. You will have functionality short term, and you will generate revenue, but long term, your 'masking' will unveil a failing firm. People generate innovation, productivity, and whatever the culturally proficient (or un-proficient) attitude for any organization. Leadership is key, but passionate leadership with engaging/inclusive focused vision separate the mediocre from the market leaders. Saatchi & Saatchi, P&G, Disney, Microsoft, and the other giants the sit in the seats of royalty of every Fortune 500 list grace us with their less than humble presence on every chart. They brag with their performance and action vs. talking. If they don't know how to do it, they hire someone better/smarter for support such as LPK for design, Eureka Ranch for innovation, or Dr. Art Shriberg's group, Developing Inclusive School Communities & Organizations (DISCO) for Diversity/Leadership Training. Learn from the leaders, not only from their successes, but also failures (yes, they are 'opportunities' to learn, even verbiage affects attitude/innovation!). True every bureaucratically large organization that is in the lime light is 'imperfectly perfect' with much to improve, every employee is not satisfied, and they do not execute every strategic initiative without flaw, but some succeed better than others, and I hone in on why.

Innovation, more than a word, but a cultural lifestyle. The values of leadership, accountability, integrity, adapting to change, quality, and being consumer driven to mention a few allow you to succeed not only in business, but life's dance floor as well. If the DNA of your organization is infused with these attributes (with action) and believed in, you will prevail even during economic volatile times such as now. It truly is, like the political and hopeful buzz word, 'change'. We must change the conversation by changing the questions we ask, how we listen, and get in better tune to recalibrate our current position(s).

Having an open channel or source to share ideas is key. All too often companies are saturated with ego, titles, and hidden bullish obstacles driven by years of stuffy, lets say it raw, crap! Human resources drive innovation through people. People with titles that are allowed to be more than a categorized label, and share ideas cross functionally, cross pollinating their heart felt ideas to improve time, cost, or efficient are key. One may not be in R&G, but thought of something related to their involvement with another team in Marketing that may fuel improvement in a product. The sharing of ideas are key. Not every idea is going to be a game changing winner, but they solid point is having the ability to share innovation vs. merely having an unshared thought. Nothing great has ever been accomplished without the help of others, asking, or sharing ideas/support.

If the cliche "Innovation" is not something being implemented in your organization, it's not being led/executed with proper belief from leadership. It becomes a value of false illusion, annoying ears during meetings, and strategically placed on the face of your companies website. It dwindles in a fading wind, and combines with the negative attitude building within the walls of your teams. Rejuvenate your teams and company by involving all levels, ideas, and inviting others input. Truly be inclusive, as innovation is led by all, but all too often, credit given to a ego driven solo person, who couldn't have done it without the support of many. Recognize, acknowledge, and involve others. Doing this will instill both the lessons one can learn from youth such as an open curiosity, as well as implementing wisdom of old sages. This combination energizing innovation, can build a balance where your organization can meet in the middle during your 'innovation journey', and build capacity.

Companies, like people, need to have a thirst to change/improve, and are also imperfect. If you're shouting out newsletters, blogs, stories, or conference calls, you are inhibiting the value of true leadership and innovation. Change your approach, truly get creative, and change the conversation/questions to lead true change. Learning how to listen to your team better, can not only help human factor/relations, but build a unifying sense of purpose. Communication can amplify, if done with proper focus, any effort. Stop compartmentalizing, and adhering to limited 'cross-functional' teams, and realize smaller, pod-like, yet unified with the whole, can help you improve efficiency, time, productivity, cost, revenue, and inclusion.

The power if distraction is tremendously detrimental. Do not cater to the temptation of falling into the blame game, but amplify change. Do not allow ideas that are irrelevant or merely venting to distract from your purpose driven vision. Demand excellence, and drive innovation not settling for anything less than. There is a cost/benefit, as well as time analysis when deciding what ideas to proceed with.

I believe leadership and innovation are a collaboration that must be in sync. They are deeply integrated, and essentially relevant to each other for existence. The decisions and choices a person and organization make drive growth or extinction. Extinction meaning slow chips of meaningful time and revenue chunked away, dismissed, or opportunity cost lost. The decisions one makes dominoes to the most minute tertiary reaches of any group. You may not see it's quantitative measurement immediately, but the organization development is affected like a virus, leading to a disease qualitatively in places we never imagined. Quantitative and qualitative are only different by one letter, but are also in sync. North American business is financially bottom line driven. While in Asia I noticed an emphasis on community and qualitative measures of people and ideas are implemented more. A good mixture or "mixalation" I like to say are key. One cannot dismiss financial bottom lines, nor operate in NA with the complete mindset of Asian competitors, or you would fail. What I am suggesting is the right energy of the NA and Asia mindset to propel your efforts (you must be engaged/in tune with your team to assess this yourself, and what capacity your organization could handle regarding this vision/change). These decisions one must make affect your success. Dwelling on the past, complaining, and how you react to obstacles defines the level of success, or failure you have.

Having a winning attitude is a guiding light. It allows you to continue and prevail through the tough times, learn to compromise and sacrifice, and carry you through your journey. We all have different gifts, but need to remember our talents at times can be utilized, but not always as predicted/wanted. Invite the gifts/talents of others, don't dismiss them, or you will fail. You'll carry a backpack of boulders vs. disperse the weight to your team properly.

When inspiring and creating innovation, and displaying how people/leadership are essential, think of times you had an idea, and why they did/did not move forward. Having the thirst to change is usually an ingredient. As in all relationships, most people don't like to change, and they resist it. Liken it to a companion of sorts. What happens when you challenge or confront a situation. All too often Pandora's box is opened, and unleashes numerous things to absorb. If you don't have healthy focused communication, it will be dispersed sporadically, and nothing but nonsensical noise will be accomplished. Things that are difficult to confront needs to be digested before addressing much needed change. The willingness to be realistic (at times being able to 'humanize' situations), and aware of the fact that difficulties will arise, but proper control of this will be necessary. Arguments, distractions, and loss of energy may occur. Keep focus, keep energized, and climbing/engaged in your vision is essential. Leadership defined as being strong enough to tackle tough issues defines successful innovation. Conflict will arise, be willing to manage it!

Time management is key to leading a project. At times people get busy, distracted, and lose focus. Managing the projects goals in a timely fashion is of the utmost importance. I recall my first Six Sigma project. I recruited a team of five, and outlined it for a 3 month project. Due to company goals, distractions, and team member issues, the project ended up being a YEAR! This was unacceptable, and I learned more about people/personalities, vision, time management, focus, and myself than the project! I carry that with me to this day when preparing for a presentation, project, and approaching innovation. It will take time, energy, and proper investment of the right people with the resources.

Embracing Diversity is important in our globally merging and integrated society. Diversity breeds innovation due to it providing different backgrounds and perspectives. These fuel ideas, then open the floor up to innovative inspiration. Diversity is an essential backbone to new ideas. It's part of the algorithm in our global society for success, and being in tune with different social, political, religious, ethnic, sex, orientation, economic, educational backgrounds, etc. (and whatever label or category one can departmentalize someone with). I urge organizations to not sacrifice quality for diversity, as this is a delicate subject, but one that needs addressed. If you merely look different, but at the core are the same, are you diverse? I am aware of companies that practice this, and to be candid breed employees in a robotic manner, and expect to be 'innovative', end up disappointed from their expectations. Inspire your employees to be not only accountable/responsible, but to think up/generate ideas for themselves, and collaborate it to 'the whole'. I agree that you need to have shared values and vision, or you will not 'fit' in an organization, but if you're not practicing what you preach, you are in dire need of reassessing your actions. If all of your employees are male, Caucasian, and middle aged (a company I worked for at one time), yet markets themselves as a diversity embracing/inviting/different entity, then you're doing what I am preaching against, being merely a slogan driven company. Integrity is inviting and being open to true diversity, NOT utilizing it to appeal to the public for what it thinks it should say. I will move on, as in today's society, and to have integrity in general as a human being, if you are not in tune/touch with what diversity is, and how it can benefit a community as a whole, I cannot address the identity/character changes you need to implement in your life. It is essential to grow as a person, and also in any organization, to embraced others, differences, and learn from others different from yourself. Our world is one which we are all in essence, one large family. I will not cross the lines of religion, race, and other fragile discussions, but I urge you to educate/learn about others different from you, and surround yourself with people of different opinions/background. You will grow exponentially. One example I utilized for a former employee was as follows. We had outsourced our IT and call center to India. As we know, many companies have followed the trend to outsource such departments for cost. Colleagues found it challenging for one reason, language/accents. One day a colleague was complaining and putting down our counterparts abroad. I asked him a couple key questions such as, "Do you realize that they not only know their native tongue, but English as well?", "I know the gentleman you were speaking with, and do you realize he had a Doctorate in Economics, yet works an extra job at our call center to help his family?", and other insights to improve his perspective. You see, all is not as we seem, and if you dig beyond surface value, you might not only discover the abilities of others, and their story, but the capability you have to improve yourself as well with leadership, understanding, and long term heart felt impact. (I believe if you have passion, heart, and are in tune with yourself + your job, you will be more driven). I am now going tangent to the subject of innovation (or am I) a bit, so I will move on.

Technology has allowed people to interact in our ever growing flat world. We can connect at the speed of our fingertips, and converse/share information anywhere/anytime via our computers. File sharing, research, and intelligence creates an endless flow of knowledge economy. Fueled by people and passionate interest, the good/bad/ugly are posted via the web. The inhibitor in all this is the type of information posted. Is it legit? Is it relevant? The user must dissect this for themselves, and utilize it properly, as should the host of the material. Sharing and communicating information properly is certainly essential to innovation.

Luceat Lux Vestra!


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