Innovation at Ground Zero
by Bray J. Brockbank

In today's rapidly changing world, entrepreneurs and executives must create a "culture of innovation" that increases performance and output throughout the organization. Too often, this creation process of cultural innovation starts with a poorly defined and communicated message, leaving middle-management to divine the message, process, and implementation.

For innovation to be an integral part of an organization, the tone must emanate from the top of the organization down. Innovation must be reflected in human performance, systems, processes and technology.

Innovation is the most critical -- and most often overlooked element for sustained organizational success in the New Economy. The New Economy is really an economy of innovation. Only innovators forge ahead, for innovation is essential for economic survival in the New Economy.

Building the Foundation for Innovation

Innovation is one of the most fundamental challenges businesses face today. Innovation requires selecting the best ideas, people, and resources to create new products, services, business systems and practices -- then using them to stay ahead of the competition through successful and sustainable cultural innovation.

Entrepreneurs and executives must know what innovation really is, how to create it, and how to sustain it. Innovation is many things, including: applied creativity, adaptive response, proactive performance, empowerment, and visionary thinking.

Applied creativity.
An organization must not only think creatively, but be able to apply creativity. Creativity without application is useless to the organization.

Adaptive response.
Adaptive organizations generate insights for new products, services, and processes. This requires redefining the organization and revolutionizing "what is " to conform to the vision of "what should be."

Proactive performance.
The New Economy is built on "speed, innovation, and adaptability." An organization's success depends on its human performance. Proactively developing innovative ways to raise organizational performance is the responsibility of the organizational leadership.

Empowerment.
Knowledge workers are no longer content with just performing work, they want to be empowered to get things done. Centralization of power will no longer work. Today, power and authority must be delegated, distributed and handed down throughout the organization.

Visionary thinking.
Entrepreneurs and executives should be chief innovation officers. As chief innovation officers they create new methodologies for organizational innovation, developing new products, services, platforms and business ventures.

Drive Change and Innovation

For innovation to be possible, change must be possible. Change must be embraced and present. I see five fundamental steps necessary for driving organizational change and innovation:

First, visionary leadership.
Change is almost always resisted, ignored, rejected, or resented by those forced to confront it. Visionary leaders understand "change-resistant environments" and focus on creating "change-adept environments", where employees embrace change.

Second, people-centric.
Organizational performance is the summation of individual performances. Change without fundamental, people-centric focus and process will fail. The organization needs to buy-in to the change through an understanding and acceptance of the motivation behind the change.

Third, understanding abilities and proficiencies.
Visionary leaders must understand their organization and its human capital abilities and inabilities. Constraints in achieving objectives must be accepted and improved upon. Without the right human capital in place, change and innovation will fail.

Fourth, collaboration.
Organizations need to embrace collaborative technologies. As organizations become more organic, diverse, and geographical, technology will bring people, systems, and resources together. Emerging technologies such as e-Learning, learning management systems (LMS), customer relationship management (CRM), knowledge management (KM), and web-based technologies allow organizations the ability to collaborate across the world. These management systems support facilitation for exchanging best practices, knowledge, customer information, real-time access to experts within the organization, training and development, customized marketing information, and collaborative work environments for project teams.

Fifth, open technology mind-set.
Technologies must be fully integrated to create a complete organizational solution. Modular in concept and practice - where all the modules, components, or systems communicate and work together - without dependencies on each other. This allows unrestricted addition and removal of components as the organization grows. Adopted technologies must have the capacity to work with new or emerging technologies yet to be marketed or conceptualized. Entrepreneurs and executives need to be champions of this approach, to manage change at scale and speed -- technological advances must be embraced and adopted.

Point of Contact

Ground zero is the point of contact between an organization and its customers. Today, interaction between customers and organizations is more complex, customers are more demanding, sophisticated, and difficult to retain. To succeed in this environment, innovation must be present at point of contact. Organizations must:

1. Focus on optimal performance to meet ever-growing and changing customer expectations.
2. Understand the customer wants and needs; past, present, and future.
3. Manage new and traditional points of customer contact.
4. Recognize and serve best customers.

By understanding the four principles, innovative organizations find ways to use customer knowledge now and in the future.

Collaboration + Creativity = Innovation

The focal point for successful businesses in the 21st century will be a continuum that begins with the creation of new ideas -- creativity - culminating through the application of new ideas, processes, products, and services that create value for the organization -- innovation.

An organization must be able to gather, share, and use knowledge about its customers, market, suppliers, and partners. Through this process the organization ensures that new innovative products and services will be designed to meet customer and market needs. This is accomplished through effective collaboration across disparate disciplines and departments, such as sales, marketing, R&D, engineering, QA, and design.

This requires a methodology, a culture, and a system for sharing ideas and capturing best practices from design through development. It ensures that the organization has the expertise, knowledge, and resources it needs to assess business problems and opportunities as they occur.

Unfortunately, most organizations do not operate in a collaborative environment, but rather operate in isolation, where each department is compartmentalized and segregated from the other. Consequently, smothering new ideas and creativity.

In an over-crowded marketplace, the capacity to innovate gives organizations the competitive edge that differentiates them from their competitors. For organizations to remain in a continuous state of innovation, a perpetual free-flow of ideas is necessary. Organizations need to rediscover the wealth of creative potential and knowledge within their own workforce. Rediscovery begins from the top of the organization down.

In the future, the management of ideas will be the mantra; executives will orchestrate by creating opportunities for organizational collaboration, creativity, and innovation. Only the innovative will prevail. Got innovation?


Bray J. Brockbank is an entrepreneur and a technology integrations consultant for Learnframe, a leading KnowledgE-commerce (TM) and e-Learning infrastructure technologies corporation; Contact Bray at Learnframe by telephone: 800-738-9800 or e-mail: bbrockbank@learnframe.com , or directly by telephone: 801-766-9861 and e-mail: brayjbrockbank@hotmail.com .

Also by Bray J. Brockbank - e-Learning and the e-Workforce | More like this in Creative Leadership in The CEO Refresher Archives

   


Copyright 2001 by Bray J. Brockbank. All rights reserved.

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