Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Don’t invest in ideas, invest in people with ideas 3 – enabling creativity and innovation throughout your organization 2

Posted in HR and personnel, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on October 28, 2014

This is my third installment in a series on cultivating and supporting innovation and its potential in a business, by cultivating and supporting the creative and innovative potential and the innovative drive of your employees and managers, and throughout your organization (see Part 1 and Part 2.)

I focused in Part 2 on the lone innovator, as they conceive of ways for improving their own task completion and work flow efficiencies. And I built from there, adding in complications:

• Work process improvements that if successful might be used by others and even many others who perform basically the same type of work as the innovator, and how their innovation testing, and validation to see if it works or not would be viewed as prototype testing for possible wider implementation.
• Work process improvements that can only create realizable value if further work process improvements are made that would make it possible to benefit from their new efficiencies. (I gave an example where an innovative improvement might mean a key task could be completed in a fraction of the usual time and reliably so, but where work that calls for the output of this improved process is not speeded up too, simply shifting a performance bottleneck downstream in an overall work flow.)
• Work process improvements in tasks that are either themselves regulated and standardized (e.g. GAAP accounting practices), or that would directly impact upon regulated processes and practices (e.g. how data that would enter into those accounting practices and come out of them are managed.)

But in all of these alternative scenarios I focused on change and innovation that would primarily if not exclusively be used entirely within the organization and with a goal of improving internal processes. I continue that discussion here, still focusing on innovation that is initially conceived by a single creative innovator who drives this innovation effort. But my goal here is to expand that discussion to consider innovations that would have business-wide immediate impact, such as:

• Fundamental innovation in the marketable products or services offered,
• Innovation in how even standard current products or services could be produced and brought to market, or
• Fundamental and far-reaching innovative change in more back-office and internal business processes that would behind-the-scenes, make this business stronger, more agile and more competitive and that start out showing wide ranging impact across business operations. I am not referring here to change and innovation in some single business process, but rather to change in overall work flows and business process systems.

The types of innovative change that I wrote of in Part 2 can help to make a business more agile and responsive, and that type of more operationally localized innovation can make a business more competitive in its markets and certainly as they accumulate as new sources of localized efficiency. The types of innovation that I write of here begin as potential fundamental game changers for the innovating business, in and of themselves as single innovations.

• Changes at this level essentially always require prototyping and refinement, and both to validate them and to optimize them for cost-effectiveness and profitability potential, and also to determine how best to integrate them into the business more effectively.
• Changes at this level essentially always need formal support and buy-in from a wider range of constituent stakeholders and certainly from within the business.
• And changes at this level essentially always benefit from the types of shepherding support that can be afforded by a formally defined and supported system, such as the type of innovation transition committee that I have formally discussed in this blog in my series: Keeping Innovation Fresh (seeBusiness Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 241 and loosely following for its Parts 1-16 and particularly see its Part 7 for a basic outline of what an innovation transition committee is and how it functions, and Part 8 for a brief discussion of how this type of resource can be functionally built into an overall business system.)

And with that, I raise what in principle might seem a clear and straightforward distinction, but that in practice might be anything but. When I wrote Part 2 to this series I added in as a complication the possibility that a lone innovator might come up with a work process improvement in what they specifically do and how they do it, that others who hold similar work titles and who perform similar tasks might benefit from as well. But I wrote of this in that installment’s context as a localized single process change, that might create real efficiencies and value but that would remain localized in immediate impact. I have been writing here of change that would impact directly on the business as a whole, and for my first innovation example bullet point above on wide-ranging business processes. What starts out looking to be more localized in impact can change and become more generalized and wider-reaching in direct impact, as it is developed and tested in actual workplace practice. So what begins looking like a type of innovation that would fit into the Part 2 pattern might evolve into an innovation that would fit the Part 3 pattern that I have been writing of here. Think of this as a sometimes very beneficial and serendipitous form of scope creep: a workplace phenomenon that is justifiably usually considered for its potentially negative consequences. The possibility of scope expansion here is just one more reason why:

• A proposed innovation that would affect how a wider range of employees would do their work, besides just the innovator themselves,
• Needs to be formally supported by a system such as an innovation transition committee system.
• And this type of formalized support with its wider stakeholder buy-in can help capture positive synergies that generalizing and expanding upon it might potentially create.
• The trick, if that is the right word here, is to manage this process without creating the types of downside bloat and disconnect problems that the term scope creep usually implies, keeping any innovation change and expansion functionally lean and focused on where it can create new value and efficiency.

I am going to turn in my next series installment to consider marketable product and service innovations. After that I will look into the issues and opportunities of innovation team, and group and team innovator efforts and how this creative potential can be encouraged and supported. As a part of that overall discussion I will delve into the issues of crowd sourcing and the merging of ideas that arise both within a single organization and from the outside. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 3 and also at Page 1 and Page 2 of that directory. Also see HR and Personnel and HR and Personnel – 2.

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