Monday, July 03, 2006

Your Innovation Footprint

Recently there's been a great series of advertisements encouraging people to think about their "Carbon" footprint. That is, how much carbon do you consume and release into the atmosphere? Where is that carbon going and what impact does it have on the planet? Interestingly, the ads are run by BP, a firm with a huge vested interest in releasing carbon and other problem particles and pollutants into the environment. I think they are working to bring up the consciousness of the problem and for all of us to recognize our participation in the problem and the solution.

Well, that got me thinking about innovation and the "innovation footprint". If together we can think about pollution and how we, each of us, can contribute to reducing our carbon footprint through simple actions, then certainly each of us can think about our "innovation footprint" at work. What actions or projects are you working on that could have an "innovation footprint"?

In this regard, it seems to me that the "carbon footprint" concept works because each of us has a stake in maintaining and improving the environment. The goal behind the program is that if each of us recognizes our involvement in the problem and takes small steps to reduce our carbon emissions, we'll take a large step towards improving the problem. This means that there is some shared goals across a large number of people to improve the living conditions on the planet.

That sounds a lot like a corporate culture to me. A large number of people with shared goals who seek to improve the conditions within a structure - just in this case, improving the margins or profits or services of a business. I think a great new program in many businesses should be to encourage the "innovation footprint" thinking within the teams and business functions within organizations. What can you personally do to help our organization become more innovative? What can your working team do? Do you have ideas that can improve our margins or cut our costs? How can those ideas get implemented?

In the "Carbon footprint" example, there are inherent rewards. Each of us gets to breathe cleaner air or enjoy a more pristine Earth. Participating in the activity brings rewards to yourself, your family and to all mankind. Likewise, an "innovation footprint" program needs to have rewards. How do the people within your organization enjoy the rewards of increased innovation? Increased profit-sharing? Larger bonuses? The knowledge that the firm they work for is considered an industry thought leader? As the carbon footprint example points out, all rewards don't have to be monetary.

The BP example is simply counting on the power and engagement of a large number of people who will take action on their own. No organizing power is needed. Likewise, as we create a culture of innovation within an organization, little "top down" structure will be required if the management team does a good job pointing out the strategy and capability of the firm. In fact, it might be better for the management team to get out of the way and see what happens.

What's your innovation footprint in your business? Do you contribute more innovation and ideas than you take from the business?
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 5:27 AM


Blogger Ajit Chouhan said...

Excellent Post.

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Blogger varun_dave said...

Good one

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Anonymous Harm Joosse said...

Maybe of your interest: i started developing a tool to assess 'your innovation footprint'. I used four determinants for individual innovative behavior, and posted some challenges that are still to be solved. I will be expanding this the coming weeks.

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