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Jumpstart Innovation

by Miki Saxon

A reader phoned me and asked if I could recommend one action item that he could do that would jumpstart a change in his organization and put them on the road to having a true culture of innovation.

I get asked that a lot and wrote abut it way back in 2006, so it seem like a good time to repost the original with a few additions here and there.

MAP and QF (questioning fundamentals)

Looking for a good way to make your company more innovative? Or to move it from where it is to where you want it to be?

Creating an innovation culture means encouraging your people to question the fundamentals (QF) of the company. This is one of the best ways to overcome the “…but we’ve always done it that way.” school of thought, as well as “not invented here” syndrome. Both are major stumbling blocks to innovation, productivity and a host of other positives moves.

  • Start by identifying your company’s fundamentals, not so much the official ones, although they can also be problematic, as the unwritten/unspoken ones your employees deal with every day. It’s easy to find them, just ask—but ask knowing that you may not like the answers.
  • Depending on the trust level in your current culture the identification process can be anything from a public brainstorming session with a whiteboard to some kind of truly anonymous “suggestion box.” Expect to be surprised at some of the perceptions that turn up. One client found that, contrary to its stated policy, their people believed that quality wasn’t as important as shoving the product out the door.
  • Once you have a start on a list of fundamentals you want to open them up to debate—the more passionate the better—using a combination of technology (forum, wiki, etc.) and in person discussions. The object being to decide whether to modify/jettison/keep each one, as well as what to add.

Unless your MAP dictates a company that functions in Dilbertland, QF is an ongoing, proactive management task that encourages employees to question/rethink/revamp the company’s fundamentals.

Even when QF is deeply embedded in your culture you can’t assume your people will do so, since new people coming from other corporate cultures will need assurance that QF is indeed part of your company’s DNA.

Image credit: Marco Bellucci on flickr

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