I recently had the privilege of working with an organisation that prides itself in operational efficiency i.e. ‘doing things right’, but has challenged itself to become more innovative and ‘do the right things’ for its customers.
Their MD had recently announced a formation of a disruptive innovation group to accelerate the rate at which they implemented projects that would substantially grow the organisation compared to recent times.
Very quickly, this new group realised that unless they came up with green field applications or acquisitions, there would be a need to work with the existing organisation which was measured on output efficiency and operational effectiveness. Their challenge became how to engage the wider organisation on the need to change and to have them ready to accept change, so that when new ideas were developed there was an appetite within the organisation to adopt a “can do”, rather than a “can’t do” mindset. This “can’t do because it will disrupt our efficiency mindset”, meant that employees had become frustrated in seeing their ideas go nowhere as the organisation had become stuck in bringing ideas to fruition.
They decided 2 things:
- Continue to develop disruptive projects, forming dedicated teams to work on these until either they were successful or were parked.
- Adopt a catalyst style approach to engage the wider workforce in the implementation of their own ideas, creating a mindset of “from little things big things grow”. Understanding that out of many ‘just do-it’ continuous improvements would come fewer step size projects which in turn would generate fewer jump size projects where the disruptive group would begin to feed in their outputs.
As we went through the process of engaging the wider organisation, we utilised a social network analysis tool that identified the peer respected and trusted individuals who would become the driving force (catalysts) to engage their colleagues and assist them to implement their ideas.
The exciting part of this process was when we brought these catalysts together to formulate how they would achieve this. We were amazed at:
- how much innovation was actually occurring but hidden to the group.
- the ease with which they found resources to “launch” the initiative without asking management for funding.
- the passion that this group generated when at last they could see a way to unclog their organisation and move to a “can do” mindset.
- the personal skills (outside of their functional role) that this network brought to the challenge and the willingness that they were all prepared to undertake activities above and beyond their job description to make it happen.
It once again reminded me of how often we don’t use the full extent of our employees capabilities as we conform them into a role – a box on an organisational chart – and the willingness of employees to go that extra mile to get things done and make their job more enjoyable and to implement changes, if only we let them!
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