[Conscious innovation at the coal-face ]
Even while companies strive to employ innovative executives, keeping abreast of 21st century demands agility, resilience and responsiveness from all staff members. The conscious executive knows that innovation is never just a “top down” process – they pay attention to those at the coal-face, where innovation often starts.
The 20/80 principle – 20% idea, 80% implementation – is usually how organisations ensure continuous change and sustainable improvement. That 20% – the seedling that starts the change – doesn’t always come from senior leadership. An excellent example is what happened at a large manufacturing company in South Africa.
Some time ago, the company implemented a successful innovation in one of its departments, which ultimately saved it some R250-million a year. Even though the company has a team of people employed to work on innovations, the idea came from a production-line worker, who spotted a “gap” in the system and made a suggestion.
The important thing here – aside from the staff member finding a better way of doing things – is that his manager was open to suggestions and clearly the conscious, courageous and intuitive boss that every organisation needs. The manager didn’t leave it up to the staff member to struggle through, but trusted what the worker had said and took on the implementation of his idea.
My hat is off to both the worker who came up with the innovation and the boss for trusting him and seeing the value in making a change. The company rewarded the worker’s novel thinking and courage in suggesting it to his manager with a cash payout and a new house. Anything that can save a leading company in any field R250-million a year deserves a reward – and the company itself (including the manager) deserves the saving for forging ahead with a new idea.
Key here is that a conscious manager sees the value in innovation quickly and has the courage and foresight to put in the 80% work required to make it happen. I also believe that trusting workers enough to listen to their ideas is an incredibly valuable tool in business – who’s better placed to make innovative suggestions that the people who actually keep the production line rolling?
Consciousness in business leads to Quantum Innovation – the ability to collaborate with all staff members and see improvement when it’s a mere seedling; to put oneself in the shoes of the men and women at the coal-face and trust that if they have found a way to “fix” things and make things more efficient, it may well work across the company, or at least that division. It’s about engaging with everyone to find solutions.
Sustainable continuous improvement is an evolutionary process, even while technology and communication has enabled it to happen rapidly – where some processes we still use today were developed over hundreds of years, technology enables us to change quickly and effectively. Still, without conscious leadership, ideas are likely to remain just that . . .
Humanity Search and Select is the CEO at Humanity Search & Select.