Thank you but I have other fish to fry. And you, what’s your Innovation fish?
Haven’t you heard this at work?
“From where I sit in the organization my perspective on that is…” which is a nicer way to say: “I hear you but my priorities are others.” This is exacerbated in the innovation space because its execution requires involvement from many areas and functions. Organizations have come a long way to ease these issues that are commonly referred to as conflicts that emerge from “organizational silos”.
In today’s world, we operate in matrix and leaner organizations that in many ways create bridges that solve barriers that emerge from involving multiple functions in decision making. I’ve encountered though, that despite these organizational designs, silos still exist, and they exist because the business priorities can be interpreted differently depending on where you sit in the organization. In fact, in many cases they are the result of human nature, we are individuals with different perspectives of life, leaders reflect their own personality in the way they manage their own part of an organization and how they pass on objectives and priorities to their teams.
How can a corporate innovation aspiration be executed at a global scale? How can different functions understand their role in doing it? How can resources be used effectively and efficiently? The answer to these questions is not one single answer and will vary across company cultures and sizes, but I think there are a few things that I consider universal. I’ll cover some of these in future i-blurbs, but in this one I’ll refer to the strategic direction. Top leaders in the organization must have a point of view of the corporate aspiration and translate that into a strategic direction, in Layman’s language, define what we want to be when we grow up. This strategic direction should be the foundation of how portfolios are designed and how people are measured, therefore should be understood in the deepest levels of the corporation.
Whirlpool real-life example:
Our e-learning focus has been a catalyst for achieving deep understanding of Whirlpool’s strategic direction at all levels of the organization, even in remote locations. I was thrilled in my last visit to China when I saw mid-level managers referring to it with passion and eloquence. Whirlpool University developed the “Whirlpool Foundation Series” in 2010, these short, concise and interactive courses build an understanding of how employees can drive achievement of Whirlpool’s strategic goals and equips employees with expert skills in the Global Operational Competencies. This may sound trivial, but the “meat” behind it is the alignment with top leaders in how the strategy needs to be communicated to the masses. This is not achieved overnight and requires commitment, even at the C.E.O. level. Another key component was the fact that in most cases, it is communicated by the leaders themselves and captured in video, this makes it personal and real. You can learn more about this in Tammy Patrick’s MIX article.
As a champion of innovation at Whirlpool I’ve had the opportunity to learn from the best. To reflect, on a daily, almost hourly basis about what works, what doesn’t, what ticks, what excites, even what “sucks” in innovation, in a company that has made it its modus operandi. During this time I’ve been capturing my thoughts in short, suggestive, fun and sometimes provocative sentences I put on twitter @moisesnorena. In these blog entries I intend to expand on what’s behind each i-blurp, hoping to enlighten, even if a little bit, those that are in the continuous search of making innovation work.
Moises Norena is Global Director of Innovation at Whirlpool, where he leads a team that works on the infrastructure that enables innovation. Find him on Twitter @MoisesNorena. Whirlpool is a company recognized for its commitment to making innovation an enterprise capability by engaging employees in the discipline.