Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Innovators, innovation teams and the innovation process 4 – identifying, developing and supporting the individual innovator 3

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on May 19, 2013

This is my fourth installment in a series on innovators and the process of innovation (see HR and Personnel, postings 154-156 for Parts 1-3.)

So far in this series, I have been discussing how innovators would be identified and worked with. And I have at least touched upon how important it is to select, train and manage and cultivate managers who work with creative and innovative employees too, to make this work (see particularly Part 3 in that regard.) But in doing so, I in effect set innovators apart and in a way that can be misleading.

• Everyone in your organization, and at every level and position in it holds within themselves a creative and innovative potential. So while I have been writing in this series up to here about innovative employees, I point out here that this potentially includes any or all of the people in your business.
• Here, the goal is to be open and supportive of your business’ community of members for when they have their great ideas.

A hands-on employee who works on a specific set of tasks in your business and who sees what is and is not working effectively there, is likely in the best position to see where improvements would be beneficial, and they might be in a best position to see at least in outline how those improvements might be framed. To take this out of the abstract, a janitor who cleans up at the end of the day after work might very well be in the best position to see which doors are locked or left unlocked – and even when they are supposed to be locked. That janitor might be the employee who comes up with a better procedural approach for non-confrontationally encouraging people to leave doors unlocked when they should do that for easier maintenance access, but locked when that should be the higher priority.

I cite this type of example for several reasons:

• Janitors go everywhere in a business and at least potentially see a lot in every one of those places. But they are generally not considered as possible sources of insight or best practices solutions.
• In this case a janitor is – and to make their insight work and to develop that new best business practice approach out of it, they would have to be able to work collaboratively with others – Security comes to mind here, but any such solution might very well require buy-in from others as well. And they would need managerial support in order to do that, or even to be listened to in the first place.
• And this brings me back to Part 3 and what I wrote about innovators and managers there. To take my points in that series installment out of the abstract, don’t just think in terms of how a manager would work with “the inventor/innovator” on their team, but rather about how they would work with any team member who has a great idea – but who comes up with this from their standard day-to-day work and while carrying out basic support activities that are not thought of as being sources of innovative insight.
• That is precisely what “disruptive” means in disruptively innovative – arriving unexpectedly and from completely unexpected directions to offer new and novel sources of value.

And this might mean coming from a consistently creative and innovative employee who is in fact explicitly an inventor/innovator on the team and it might come from a member of an explicitly organized inventor/innovator team, or it might come from a more routine-function employee who has a flash of insight.

• It is the hallmark of an innovative organization that the potential for this type of insight and innovation is supported wherever it comes from, and employees are both listened to and included when they seek to offer innovative potential and its fruits.

I am going to continue this discussion in my next series installment, there turning to consider the organization and its policies and practices, and its corporate culture. And at least one of the working examples that I will cite is provided by Google. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at HR and Personnel and also at Business Strategy and Operations and at its continuation page: Business Strategy and Operations – 2.

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