Innovation: A tiny change can make a big difference

Innovation: A tiny change can make a big difference

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, with the power of many being much greater than that of the individual.

Since then, social networks have been formed and open innovation models developed where problems are presented to the wider community in the hope that somebody, somewhere may be able to proffer a solution. Again, the power of many is 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 is 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 every good reason: confidentiality.

Why past attempts have failed

Attempts to tap into the power of a company’s own people have often foundered because they failed to embrace some simple rules and models.

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, three things need to happen:

Problem identification ? Proposed solution ? Idea submission

The simple issue here is that a proposed solution seems to be a necessary precursor 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 better still, to simply highlight or identify issues in need of exploration and solution.

Thus, the staff suggestion scheme should 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”© 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. 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 staff for their suggestions and leave the solution to the experts.

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

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