Innovation can be the spark that galvanizes an organization and resets the whole of it for higher and faster growth.
After using innovation methods successfully to create meaningful products, services, and perhaps overhaul the business model itself, these methods and mindsets can be used to refine and advance many other operational segments of the business.
We call this growth tendency Extending the Transformation. We see this happen inside organizations after they experience some innovation wins in rapid succession, typically 18-24 months after they begin the innovation journey.
Once innovation metrics get assigned to a particular function, it is amazing how that function can use the methods to shake the cobwebs, dust, inefficient processes, and bloated costs out of the system.
Here’s the sticky point. This is not a value-engineering process or something akin to Six Sigma that has its roots in the Industrial Revolution, but rather a refreshing of perspective and a refining of objectives, reach, and actions. It is a question of creating and expanding new value and capability, not merely optimizing an existing system.
The mandate is to innovation, not just to improve.
I have written previously about how the most unlikely department created new value, in a piece about Johnson & Johnson’s Procurement Department (https://www.memphisdailynews.com/news/2014/dec/1/even-procurement-is-innovating/). Here, they played to their strengths, relationship. They began to source innovation itself and reward innovation from their suppliers, which benefitted all entities in the relationship.
Now we see HR using innovative methods to transform from “paper pushers and complaint departments” to leading Talent Management, Acquisition, and Development. What was a reactive, functional HR department became a strategy driver inside these organizations?
Using methods of empathy, problem definition, Ideation, prototyping, and testing these prototypes with their users, we’ve seen manufacturing teams and facilities solve problems they previously thought unsolvable.
Moreover, we’ve seen improvements in areas where previously teams found problems unsolvable—not just workarounds or incremental changes, but total shifts. Morale improves just by the mere act of getting those in the plant to collaborate on these methods.
Then, we have witnessed and participated in engineering organizations retooling their process to include the iterative steps and frequent market testing steps in the Innovation methodology. In fact, they receive great results by blending their Innovation Methodology and New Product Development Process.
Ultimately, extending the innovation transformation to all departments and processes is about culture. This enormous initiative, largely focused at us becoming more innovative and fast moving, empowers deeper collaboration, more market feedback throughout the lifecycle of a concept, and a radical the radical confidence of real leadership.
Extending the transformation is a strategic choice, based on both short- and long-term value growth. We’ve seen this awaken departments that were once sleepy cost-centers into activated value generators.
Warning: only those who want to be market leaders need to make this shift.
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Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.