The way a company treats its top performers provides role models for all others. If such fast track performers are innovative, then others will see creativity and innovation as the path to success. If most star performers are cautious and rule bound, the clear message would be, “Be careful and just follow rules if you want to move up. Creativity does not pay”.
Many management teams are involved in fire fighting and solving urgent matters that have developed into critical situations. Time needs to be set apart to study alternative solutions for the problems that lie under the surface of a running organization. ‘Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,’ say the Americans, meaning, do not change something that is working well. This is disastrous advice in the present context of rapid change. Status quo is the gateway to overnight obsolescence. Innovation should be planned when things are going well. When things are going badly, when survival itself is an issue, no one has the time or energy to look for alternatives.
Creativity needs time and energy. The 6Ms (Men, Materials. Machines, Methods, Markets and Money) should be made available to the initiative over the long-term. Sustained innovation requires that resources are set apart for practice of the innovation process. Innovation spirals should meet.
A manager comments: “I m not sure I want my people to be more creative; they have trouble getting their work done on time and within the budget as it is.”
Managing innovation is not an oxymoron. Highly innovative companies manage the actual process of generating, developing and implementing innovative ideas better than their competitors do. This process involves a lot of deliberate duplication and redundancy in order to foster knowledge sharing and communication. There are a million garage start-ups in IT. In rural India, cowshed innovation is common. But in every case, it has blossomed in an atmosphere of organizational freedom.
Microsoft says that their only factory asset is the human imagination.
An over-emphasis on doing things right the first time inhibits innovation.
• The way creative individuals are treated has a major impact on organizational innovation. Organizations must reward successes produced by innovations and keep encouraging people in the face of so-called failures. Rewards nurture creativity through affirming its value to the organization. While most Aspirants and Non-Starters had no reward for individual creativity, all Stars did.
• Turf protection and barriers between different functional areas are major obstacles to innovation. Encouraging cultural, racial and gender diversity helps reduce these barriers.
• Non-Starters choose to spend most of their time on making small improvements to existing products, while devoting very little attention to new product development. They need to focus more on breakthroughs and radical changes.
• All employees should be involved in innovation by learning the tools of creativity and providing a positive, enabling field. Stars make use of a strategic planning approach that involves the whole team in not just executing strategies, but actually planning them. This approach creates buy-in from team members.
• Top management should drive the process by providing a personal example. Management needs to talk less about innovation and do more on the ground.
• Most Stars have an idea generation process, but not all of them use it. This shows that having information is different from using it. People may know a process theoretically; organizations alone can ensure that it is used. Top management commitment is critical to universal understanding and sharing of thinking tools.
• Time and resources need to be allocated for learning innovation tools and processes. Stars studied more books on innovation than Aspirants or Non-Starters. Additionally, Stars attended more training programs on innovation.
• Stars spend much less time in meetings. Additionally, the productivity of meetings for Stars was higher.
Dr. Rekha Shetty is Managing Director of Farstar Distribution Network, a unique consultancy company devoted exclusively to innovation and creativity under the brand name Mindspower.She is an author, an entrepreneur and an original thinker. Her long term Innovation Initiative, using 47 thinking tools helps in a steep increase in profits, reduction in costs, while improving customer satisfaction levels and employee participation levels. She is a consultant to ICICI Bank, Ashok Leyland Ltd., Hyundai Motors Ltd., TVS Group, TI Group, Durgapur Steel Plant, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and other blue chip companies.
In her very first assignment in United India Insurance, she developed a nationally acclaimed advertising campaign. During the last seventeen years, she has specialized in the field of Creativity in Management and developed her own management brand, Mindspower. She was one of Asia’s first women District Governors for Rotary International and was awarded Rotary’s highest Award – Service above Self.
Her fourth book “Innovate! 90 Days to Transform your Business” is under print and will be released by Penguin during May 2010.