Thursday, August 7, 2008

Innovation at Work

INNOVATION has been a hot topic for a little over 2 years now, I believe. It appears in sales presentations, company values, all-hands meetings, etc. across industries. My thoughts on the subject are simple: Despite all the buzz, innovation at work really only happens by exposure to new ideas. But if management and employees are plodding along in their routines, how do new ideas happen? Sometimes routine does lend itself to imagination and then innovation--but only out of a necessity to escape! Is that really a productive way to build a culture of innovation? (That's rhetorical, people.) The best way to ensure innovation is to build in FLEXIBILITY and provide for new EXPERIENCES. While I think most large corporations have misgivings about giving employees flex time or covering the cost of training or activities peripheral to one's "job description," smaller companies can redefine what it means to work for them. More often than not, employers of all sizes are concerned with time. What's interesting is that most employees are salaried, not hourly, which sends the message that their results are more important than arriving on time, taking a 1-hour lunch, and leaving 8 or more hours later when work for the day is "completed." Yet these antiquated measures of success still dominate! Smart employers know the work never ends, and it doesn't begin when you show up to the office. Thankfully, engaged employees have active brains at all hours of the day and oftentimes the best ideas occur when they're doing something totally different from work. Point being: Want innovation? Lighten up on the clock and reward employees with experiences that will make them want to work for you! Sharon O'Neill's story and company,, for example, is a great example of experiential rewards. Too bad it's not available in the U.S., but for $48 you can go sailing for day. Also, too bad they're not my client.

(Note: If this post was a bit too fluffy for you, stay tuned . . . my next post will point to some experts on these subjects, such as John Kao, and respond to their key points.)

(Shameless plug: If you want help increasing innovation in your organization, please contact me to schedule a culture review. You'll get personalized recommendations and programs to implement to take your small business further.)

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