As we kick start 2013 amidst lot of optimism – many are unable to shake off the silent worry of troubled markets and the continuing impact of recession. The southward trend is slowing down and we are sure the upward move will start, but when, remains the question on everybody’s mind.
While entrepreneurs have always had to work on shoe string budgets to create mind blowing innovations, larger organizations are challenged by existing mindset and cultural barriers to become innovative. Though being creative is being flaunted as one of the most important facets for a business to survive this turbulence, creativity and innovation is one of the most difficult functions for any institution to initiate and sustain.
So what’s stopping Indian small and medium businesses from using innovation to sustain and scale. The biggest challenge is – mindset! This is not the mindset of the organization at the employee level but it is one at the level of the leaders. Though all CEOs talk about the huge benefit that 3M and Google have derived from giving free time to work on personal interests and institutional interests for the long term, very few organizations are able to implement initiatives like these for themselves. Why?
Because, the mindset of leaders and managers is still ensconced in the old school of thought – ‘Empty mind is a devil’s workshop!’ Leaders and managers are paranoid about people not having allocated work to do. They are paranoid about giving people free time and space within office confines. They are averse to people simply chatting up, talking about future of the firm, tinkering about a possible product / service, surfing and reading online, spending time on social media, etc.
So many managers and leaders actually become innovative in finding ways to keep the workforce busy even through slack time . Very often you will find teams doing inane and non-value add work religiously, rather than exercise free thinking and experimentation. To this the workforce reacts in a predictable manner. They become innovative in finding methods to break these monotonous routines and seeking special avenues of escape from mundane. However these efforts are directed toward alleviating the individual’s situation at workplace.
What can happen if the employees are allowed to pursue their interests without any restrictions or expectations? If they are allowed formally to work on things outside of their immediate business without any obligation back to the firm, the ideas that would emerge will often be centered on what could make their work and business better.
Empowering employees to participate in creativity and innovation workshops, enabling them with the necessary tools to be more opportunity and idea prone, giving them the freedom to experiment without worry and providing them the opportunity to lead those potential projects with small internal investments, can result in huge upside for organizations.
When we conduct the Idea to Opportunity Workshop or the Double Filter Innovation Process Workshop, we have seen firms experience a wave of positive change. Return on investment is always faster and larger than what the management had braced themselves for. A lot of innovation is actually “allowing” – removing restraints and constraints from the daily life of employees. Creating an environment of trust and freedom brings responsibility, when kept within a highly system oriented boundary.