Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Good ideas dwell in every corner of every organization.


They exist in the minds of every level of employee and in the minds of engaged and loyal customers. Countless permutations of intraorganization interaction (associate-customer, associate-manager, manager-director etc) reveal areas of rub, or ripe places for improvement or optimization. This does not only apply to, say store and operations personnel, but to workers of all levels and all over the company. Most organizations take pride in hiring smart and capable people. It is in the day to day experiences of these intelligent and capable agents where workarounds, improvement, innovation and maybe even invention may be inspired on a regular basis.

It is not the leaders’ responsibility to dream up new ideas and improvements. But it IS the leaders’ responsibility to ensure that good ideas are allowed to grow and are harvested. It is FURTHER the leaders’ responsibility that the fruits of harvest are then processed to a logical end and in a way that is respectful of those who bore them in the first place. And it is ultimately the leaders’ responsibility that enough of a culture of tolerance exists that those workforce personnel who do have ideas and suggestions freely share them, and consistently. This is not an easy environment to create or maintain.

It is important to transfer these concepts to the leaders and managers within the organization. That is a primary and fundamental step. It is also necessary for these same people to understand what it takes to seed, nourish, grow, harvest and then process innovation within the four walls of the enterprise...and then keep it going as a way-of-working. As importantly, it is crucial to honestly ferret out those things that are culturally counter to this goal (open, experimental and innovative improvement-minded culture) and on the other end of the spectrum, the things that the organization has in place that may be used to facilitate this effort.

In order to keep it real and practical, operational, the fundamental scope and scale for what I-3: improvement, innovation and invention look like on a daily basis, where the workforce touches it, why it is normally needed should be made clear. That we are not primarily looking for a cure to cancer or E=MC2 or the location of the Fountain of Youth, should be transparent. Among other things, we are looking for the little things that help the company optimize on a daily, weekly,quarterly basis.

In the pursuit of a culture of I-3, an organization should seek out real-world low order-of-cost but moderate order–of-impact success stories where an improvement, an innovation, an invention was implemented at a store, within a team, in a district, with/at corporate, across company boundaries and its effect. Share these learnings in a forum that can be heard across the company, open up lines of communications, tolerate risk, take some chances, have some fun and watch your I-3 plant grow.

Let me hear what has worked for YOUR organization.

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