Lisa was the administrative assistant to the CEO of a global consulting firm. Her innovative approach to her work became the best practices that gave the company a competitive advantage.
Kelly is an operations manager for the government. Her forward-thinking ideas have helped her department have a stronger, more valued voice to the internal teams they serve.
Mike runs an internal auditing team and his innovative leadership has transformed the team into one of the highest-performing in the company.
Lowell works at a retail kiosk of a major national chain. He took all his conversations with customers and turned them into innovative new product ideas that have drastically impacted the bottom line.
These are the stories I continually uncover in my work. The untold stories of innovation that come from the most unexpected people – the ones not technically responsible for innovation. They are not Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, or Jeff Bezos. They don’t have sexy titles like VP of Innovation or Chief Experience Officer. But they do recognize that everyone has the power to innovate, especially themselves.
They are everyday people like you and me.
You may not be deemed the one accountable for innovation, but you have ideas. You’ve gotten frustrated and thought, “there has got to be a better way.” Or maybe you’ve been told to just stay the course while others innovate so you shoved your innovative side in the drawer and let it collect dust. Yet ideas keep bubbling up inside you anyway.
I’ll never forget the moment my boss, a petite woman with a love of hierarchy, told me it was not my concern and dismissed the sales opportunity I had discovered for another team. My idea may not have been flushed out but I knew there was something there. I left that meeting demoralized and detached when I should have left feeling like I had contributed to the greater good of the company.
When you unlock the innovator inside of you and have a platform for your voice, you feel empowered and, most importantly, valued for your contributions.
These untold stories, while they aren’t the ones that make the news or prompt a company-wide announcement, are the ones that have the biggest impact on an organization’s ability to gain the competitive advantage and outdo the competition. You, no matter your level on the organizational ladder, have the ability to make a big impact.
In truth, most organizations get it wrong. They assign innovation to a select few and ignore the rest of us, leaving a massive untapped arsenal of innovation.
Lisa, Kelly, Mike, and Lowell have something very important in common. It’s not a special skill or the ability to innovate, we all have that. It’s that they are empowered to innovate, have the tools to put innovation into action and work for organizations that recognize that innovation is everybody’s business.
If you are a leader, I challenge you to democratize innovation and give everyone a platform for innovation.
Make your team or organization’s challenges, everyone’s challenges. A factory with a manufacturing malfunction was solved by the janitor, not the engineers. A retail chain found its next big product idea from a part-time cashier in a mall in middle America. I know transparency is hard and vulnerable. And the excuse for keeping challenges siloed usually comes as “but they don’t have all the info.” But I’d ask you back, what’s better, having a small, select few working towards your challenges or goals, or harnessing the incredible power of all the minds on your team or organization? I think we both know the answer to that.
If you are a contributor, I challenge you to discover your innovation powers and have a stronger, more valued voice.
Recognize that you are innovative, in your own way. And your way is what’s going to allow you to be an indispensable member of your team. View every meeting, task, or interaction as an opportunity to flex your innovation muscles. What we’ve discovered through our research around the tens of thousands of people across the globe that have taken the Innovation Quotient Edge assessment is that those that own and use their ability to innovate are seen as high-value contributors. That’s your personal competitive advantage and you can put it to work for yourself every day. We are all everyday innovators if we choose to be.
What’s your untold story?
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Tamara Ghandour of GoToLaunchStreet is a TED speaker and entrepreneur. From building and running multimillion dollar businesses, advising Fortune 500 like Disney, Procter and Gamble and RICOH on fostering innovative ideas and people. Tamara’s life is about breaking through the status quo for game-changing results, and that’s what her keynotes, online programs and assessments can do for you.