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Innovation is a buzzword that is used in many boardrooms and in pockets of the organisation. Only a selection of operational teams has started to understand what “innovation” means for them. One of the functions that is often leading “innovation” is IT. Most IT teams have started to invest in solid technology foundations that allow innovative technology solutions and applications to easily integrate with the wider technology environment.
But in a world where we, as consumers, are continuously confronted with innovative products and services, more personalised technologies, faster and more reliable solutions, there is an expectation that this is also replicated in our workplace. And even though most of the workforce continuously look for innovative solutions to make their personal life easier, more efficient, more comfortable, this is often not replicated in the office. I know many individuals that have more innovative solutions at home than in their workplace. So, how are we able to transition this innovative mentality, behaviour and ultimately solutions into the workplace?
One of the challenges for many employees is to enable them to adapt their innovative mindset into an office environment. Being innovative at home vs, the workplace is very different. At home, the impact is often smaller, the risks are small or not even present, and “try and test” approach is far more acceptable at home then in the office.
The second challenge, is the “can’t do” attitude. Unfortunately, there is always a history in businesses where initiatives have been tried and failed. I often hear, “Yes, we have tried this 5 years ago, and the customer didn’t accept that”, or “Yes, we have tried that new solution 3 years ago, but it didn’t work”, or “This doesn’t work in our company/ industry”. I have often heard these and many more excuses. The only thing I can say is that if something didn’t work x years/ months ago, doesn’t mean that it will not work today. The great thing about having tried solutions in the past, is that you don’t have to start from scratch. You can simply re-visit this original solution, and adapt or further innovate the it.
So, how can organisations encourage innovative behaviour in their office environment? Through working with different stakeholders, I have found how the following steps have allowed organisations to introduce operational innovation in their business…
1. Identify the pockets of innovation in your business
All businesses have people that are innovative and look at smarter, better solutions that will assist your business to progress. Ensure that these people are heard, are encouraged and supported. Some of the best innovative solutions or products have come from parts of the organisation where you least expected it (read “What it Takes to Innovate within Large Corporations” – 15 June 2016)
2. Re-visit “old” innovations and assess their potential innovative value
Most innovative solutions have already (partly) developed and simply require tweaking or a fresh pair of eyes to further innovate the solution. I have also seen that most innovative solutions are existing solutions, but adapted to the industry of the organisation. By reviewing innovative solutions and translating its enhanced relevant for your organisation, you’re able to introduce proven innovative solutions in your industry.
3. Innovation is a continuous, iterative process
Innovation is not a one-time initiative. For innovation to succeed, organisations should accept that there also will be many innovative ideas, or part solutions, that will fail. Innovation is a “test & try” environment and continuously need reviews, assessments and new insights. Therefore, innovation needs to be introduced Today, to allow it to be successful Tomorrow. I have experienced that by introducing cross-functional teams, with different experiences, knowledge and skills, the best innovative solutions have been developed, through iterative solution development, starting small, today, and growing into high-impact innovative solutions, tomorrow.
4. Accept personal innovative solutions in the workplace
Every person thinks differently and uses different experiences to come up with new ideas. As office life is often crouching into our personal lives and vice versa, it important to use people’s personal innovative experiences into the office environment. It might be an app that allows you to find your favourite coffee faster, which can be used, in reverse, to sell your services or products more effectively. Or it might be an innovative chair at home that can be introduced in the workplace and assists people to be more productive. I have often seen that through using personal innovative behaviours from home life into the workplace, employees become more engaged and deliver better and more innovate solutions for their organisation
5. Innovation is NOT only technology
It’s crucial for organisations to support technology ANDnon-technology innovative solutions. Many people in the workforce are automatically thinking about technology when management highlights the need to innovate. However, at least 50% of the innovative solutions I have seen being introduced have no or minimal technical involvement. It’s simply changing some of the behaviours and/ or removing some of the non-value added process steps or completely revisiting the process to get to a desired result (examples are introducing self-billing in transport management, transitioning towards Vendor Managed Inventory, etc. )
As highlighted, innovation doesn’t just happen. Innovation should simply start Today, to ensure it makes an impact Tomorrow…
If you’re looking for active guidance, assistance to introduce Operational Innovation across your back-office, or just would like to obtain more information, please get in touch.
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