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Harnessing The Innovative Power Of Your Workforce

Thursday 2 December, 2010
Attempts to tap into the power of a company's own workforce have often floundered because they failed to embrace some simple rules and models. Discover how to simplify your innovation process.

The power of many is greater than the sum of the individuals

It is common knowledge that a linked worldwide network of computers is in use to provide a virtual super computer, the power of many being much greater than the individual.

So too social networks have been formed, and open innovation models developed, where problems are presented to the wider community in the hope that somewhere, somebody may be able to offer a solution. Again the power of many being much greater than the individual.

It may be possible for many businesses to exploit some of these open innovation and wide area models but for many this is giving away too much of the "farm". Perhaps it's best to keep opportunities in house and use the power of your people to find the solutions. This is without doubt the model preferred and embraced by most businesses, and for a very good reason - confidentiality.

Why past attempts have failed

The old fashioned "staff suggestion scheme" is an example of a model that in theory sounds good but unfortunately these have not really delivered what they promised, and the reason is simple. This model is fundamentally flawed.

For a person to lodge a staff suggestion requires these following three activities:

Problem Identification > Proposed Solution > Idea Submission

The simple issue here is that a proposed solution seems to be a necessary pre-cursor to a submission, whereas the person who has identified the problem may not be in the best position to propose a solution. Consequently, the identified problem may languish for want of a solution and subsequent submission.

A better model

The real secret to tapping into the latent talents of your people should not require them to solve the problem but perhaps, better still, simply highlight or identify issues in need of exploration and solution.

Thus the staff suggestion scheme should in fact be an "issue identification forum"

The model then simply becomes:

Problem Identification > Issue Submission

Once a problem has been identified, it is far easier to have one of the "Innovation Circles"© (that one would assume many businesses have now embraced) investigate and resolve the issue at hand.

A simple example

The following may be an overly simplistic example, but the reader will no doubt get the message, that it is the highlighting of the issue where the real value lies.

Suppose a production worker notices that the tamper tape on packets of pills they manufacture and sell is not really providing adequate tamper protection. The worker notices this, but in putting forward a staff suggestion the worker should not be required to suggest a solution that may include alternative tamper tapes or attachment gluing material. The worker need only highlight the problem and be rewarded for that. Leave the solution to the experts, perhaps those forming an "Innovation Circle. These are the people charged with resolving issues and developing innovative solutions to problems.

In short

Simplify your staff suggestion scheme, make it easy for all staff to submit issues in need of resolution, reward them for that and leave the solution to the experts.

Understand that the real opportunity lies in identifying the problem, more so than the solution.

Author Credits

Roger La Salle, often referred to as Australia "innovation guru" is the creator of the "Matrix Thinking"™ technique and is a widely sought after international speaker on, innovation, opportunity, and business development. Roger’s new book is now available, called "Think Again". This is about innovating your processes to harvest untouched wealth. Don't be fooled, process innovation does not apply just to manufacturing, as many may think. Indeed businesses like DHL, FedEx and UPS came into being by doing nothing more than innovating the postal service. So too Henry Ford did not invent the motor car, just innovated the way of making them. "Think Again" by Roger La Salle is available from www.matrixthinking.com
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