Turn Up the Innovation Dial in Your Business

by IBGS on February 15, 2009

I was having dinner this evening with a table full of friends and clients and as is always the case the focus of the table’s conversation eventually turned to everyone wanting to know how my new business, IBGS, is doing. Since the majority of my social and business acquaintances are business owners or executives of large firms who work in the rigidly slow moving world of mainstream American business where I came from, they enjoy drilling me with questions starting with the word “How”… that quickly generates the counter questions that start with the word “Why!”.

Right after I left the corporate world for semi-retirement and to find my mission in After-Corporate life, the questions my close friends drilled me with had skeptic tones based on their uncertainty of my business model and lack of understanding of how entrepreneurial stuff works. After four years of these dinners these questions now have turned to more me holding court and doing what I am good at doing..mentoring.

However, in this particular dinner, the questions started reflecting issues these businesses were dealing with today… the failed economy. The topic that took the dinner discussion clear through to dessert and the after dinner Brandy, was “Innovation”.

It seems in the world of large mainstream businesses, innovation is not frequently used, or understood. Since my entire second life in business has been a steady stream of innovative thinking and finding solutions for my clients through innovation, the word “innovation” to me has become rather cliché, but in the environment of this dinner with friends, I found talking about innovation rather confirming of things I do in my business I didn’t realize were innovative until this group pointed it out.

How Would I Bring Innovation Into an Old Business?

Naturally, any conversation held today is going to lead off with the mess the American economy is in and then backed up with fleeting comments reflecting what most business executives are dealing with in the boardrooms around America and that is…what do we do to get through this?

My offerings to the conversation was to tell the group that “innovation is dead in most mainstream businesses”. From there, the entire evening became a group mentoring session with the discussion centered around how innovation can be brought into older mainstream businesses. First, in order for businesses to attempt to survive through the economic mess they will have to embrace innovative thinking. The questions was asked to me, “How would I bring in innovation to a older business?”. My response took up the remainder of the evening.

Bring Innovation Into the Mainstream

Innovation is in every company or business. Everyone had within them the ability to think and be innovative in solving problems. Just driving to work in the morning requires a person to demonstrate several times innovative thinking. So, bring innovation into older businesses is not the issue…it is allowing innovating thinking to take place.  Old thinking and business plans is why it appears a workforce does not have any innovation.

For most mainstream traditional businesses innovative ideas are usually hashed out during the development of the business plan. Once that plan is stamped off by a business owner it very seldom is changed since their thinking is that everything the business can do was thought out in the plan. So, why change the plan?

This type of thinking use to work, but now feelings of change is not needed should be be placed in file 13. For the more moderate businesses of the world who have adapted a more flexible approach to business, innovation appears to be mainstay of the business but in reality it is only at the executive level. There is a fear within many companies that if innovative thinking and action was allowed outside the executive suite that production would bottom out and nothing would get done. Again, example of another way of thinking that pushes a business into a nose dive that they will not be able to pull out. Either way, a complete void or a modified tolerance of innovation will not get businesses through touch times. Here is why…

Void of Innovation

Innovation will be hard to develop within the businesses who void out fresh thinking through ridge business policies and processes set up to keep the workforce focused on mind numbing tasks. Bring innovation into a company that has none will be looked at as radical change. Most people to not accept change very well. So in order to get things working in a ridge environment the executives have to overcome the challenge of comforting the need for change in the business. To accomplish this, the very top executive has to demonstrate change by doing something nearly out of character for him or her. This starts the ball rolling for the entire organization to see that change is good which will click on the innovative thinking that is inside everyone in the organization.

Modified Innovation

In the businesses that leave the innovative thinking to the few people at the top, they have a challenge of implementing overall innovative thinking because they have a trust factor created from them demonstrating their innovative thinking but not allowing it to be shared. So, in order for these businesses to implement innovative thinking they have to demonstrate to their workforce, and sometimes to their clients, that they can be trusted to truly allow throughout their enterprise.

How to Implement Innovation

Bringing innovation into a business is easier done if innovation is part of the daily work routine. In order for innovation to take hold the top executives need to communicate directly to the workforce and to their client base. No matter if the business has one employee or the corporation has 500,000 employees, the top executives need to devise and innovative way to talk to each and every employee face-to-face.

It can be done, I have seen it happen and it worked. It took about three months but the leader of my fortune 100 corporation made literally a world wind tour of the entire corporation and met in groups of five to ten employees for a couple of hours each. I distinctly remember him talked directly to ME and the others, on how he needed our help to make the change in the company…obviously that message stuck with me and will stay with me for the rest of my life even though I am not longer in that corporation…that is how impacting direct communication can be towards developing innovative thinking.

Bottomline: Things are going to get touch and there is absolutely no way of telling what a business will face tomorrow. If a business is not set up to immediately initiate innovation in solving problems or changing a business model, then they will be the first to lose the markets interest.

Consumers are not going to be very trusting of a business that cannot change to their needs or wants. The market is going to slash through old traditional business models to get to the products and services that can be brought to them quickly and affordably.

Employees are only going to work for businesses that let them get involved in securing their employment. The one thing that is going to glue all of the pieces of the cracked economy back together is COMMUNCATION.  And, that communication will only be heard by the market or employees through face to face, “stir you in the eye”, frank talk from the leaders of the world’s business.

There will be some concerning times ahead, but there also will be some exciting times with it…let me know how I can help.

Innovative Business Golf Solutions offers services to business people who are looking for sound business problem solving.

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