Monday, December 12, 2005

Bringing Innovation out of the lab

Many firms we speak with have innovation covered. "That's in research and development. They're responsible for innovation." I hear that quite frequently. If that's true, then quality belongs in the quality department and no one in your firm other than the sales team sells.

I think we are all beginning to figure out that innovation is a corporate wide initiative, and too important to be left to just R&D. Anyway, a focus on innovation as an R&D initiative assumes that all innovation is product focused. As we've discussed before, innovation can come from a change in a product, most definitely, but also from a change in a process, a service offering, a business model and many more less tangible and non-product origins. Does your R&D team focus on these types of innovations as well?

One of the first questions I ask anyone when we talk with them about innovation is "If an employee in your organization has an idea for a new product, a new service or some other innovative idea, where does he or she submit that idea?" Generally speaking, many firms don't encourage individual employees to dream up new ideas, and don't have anything more than a physical suggestion box. Where there's no emphasis on individual creativity and innovation, ideas are generated only by those whose "job" it is to create new ideas. Innovation, especially outside the scope of the R&D team, is probably stifled.

If we are in an age of knowledge workers, with more education than ever before and with increasingly greater knowledge of their jobs, their work and their products, why wouldn't we find ways to tap into that knowledge? We talk about people as our key asset, yet we treat them as if they have no independent knowledge or ideas.

Here's to bringing innovation out of the lab and into marketing, purchasing, sales and quality assurance - in other words, let's get everyone involved.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:26 AM

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