Helping Frontline Workers Become Innovative
Innovative organizations do not miraculously come into existence. Rather, they are created by leaders who establish the conditions necessary to bring out the innovative ideas within everyone.
How can organizational leaders create these conditions? In particular, how can they create conditions that will encourage frontline workers to be innovative? This requires, I believe, that leaders fulfill two major conditions. They must convince frontline workers that the leadership supports the line; and, they must ensure that frontline workers understand the big picture.
In every effective organization, there is some kind of implicit contract between the leadership and the line. The line will produce what the leadership wants; in turn, the leadership produces what the line wants. The organization’s leadership wants to make this message as explicit as possible: “You produce for us, and we’ll produce for you”.
This implicit contract is needed by any organization that seeks to become innovative. Frontline workers will not help an organization’s leadership do a better job at achieving its mission unless they believe these leaders will help them.
Frontline workers: leadership on their side
But what should those frontline workers who have decided that being innovative is good for the organization attempt to accomplish? In what direction should they attempt to innovate? What are the constraints? How will an innovation fit within other efforts being made throughout the agency? What is the purpose of the agency and how will any specific innovation help to achieve that purpose? To be effective as innovators, frontline workers must understand what the organization is trying to accomplish, why it is trying to accomplish that, and how it might achieve that goal.
Frontline workers understand the big picture
Before frontline workers are going to become innovative, they have to believe that the organization’s leadership supports them, and they have to understand the big picture.
Be immediately responsive
When an executive first asks frontline workers or middle managers what should be done to improve the organization’s effectiveness, the responses will inevitably focus on working conditions. People will complain about the lack of a soft drink machine, the broken toilet, or the photocopier that barely reproduces the original. Obviously, workers will be more productive if they have the right tool.
The quicker that top management produces the new copier, the better its credibility will be.
In fact, before asking frontline workers what should be done to improve the organization, its leaders ought to know the answer they will hear. Before top management meets with the workers, leaders ought to find out what kind of improvements the workers will request. Before the meeting, they ought to check out exactly what they will have to do to produce the improvement and how long it will take. Then, when confronted with the request, they can commit to making the improvement and also state clearly whether the improvement will be completed in a day, a week, a month, or a year.
To identify the needs of frontline workers, the agency’s leadership ought to ask the union. In fact, in a unionized agency, if the organization’s leaders go straight to their frontline workers, the union will view this as a direct threat, an effort to undermine its role.
Innovative organizations make mistakes, lots of mistakes. And how the organization treats these mistakes and those who make them sends important signals throughout the organization. If the mistaken innovators are punished in any way, even if they are just perceived to be punished, frontline workers will relearn a basic lesson of bureaucratic life: It does not pay to experiment with new ideas.
Unfortunately, a lot of people make their living catching mistaken innovations. These mistake catchers get their jollies and their professional recognition from uncovering and exposing mistakes. The moral fervor with which they take on this assignment combined with the well-known and easily implemented strategy for publicizing any mistake creates the
If frontline workers learn that no mistake, even an honest mistake, goes unpunished, they will certainly be reluctant to be innovative. Consequently, leaders who wish to create an innovative organization have to figure out ways to prevent those who make mistakes from being punished.
- IT Innovation: is outsourcing possible? (worldofinnovations.net)
- Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders and Managers is a… (prweb.com)
- Free Yourself with a Fearless Front Line (cherylmcmillan.com)
- Should You Take That Innovation Job? (blogs.hbr.org)
- 2- Leadership and Innovation: Relating to Circumstances and Change (serdarbicer.wordpress.com)
- Should You Take That Innovation Job? – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
During this first day of 2015, I would like to wish everyone: “happy new year 2015”.
777: 7 wishes for 7 days on 7
1. May this year be full of innovations
2. Creativity better released in businesses and companies
3. Error really allowed by the management
4. Failure an opportunity to learn
5. More people able to think out-of-the-box and start over
6. Digital age taken as an opportunity and not as a tragedy
7. Unthinkable ideas allowed to anybody anywhere…
I thank everyone who helps me every day with their creativity through their knowledge, their ability to go beyond the yellow line, to update this web site and to promote innovation whether technological, industrial, organizational , structural or moral.
I also thank the detractors, those who question our thoughts, our ideas, our views, and that helps me to see things differently, with a different angle or with new analyzes.
To all, a very good year 2015.
J’ai eu la chance jeudi 4 décembre de pouvoir participer à un déjeuner organisé par une société de conseil Weaves, animé par Frédéric Simottel de BFM Business et auquel était invite Gilles Babinet, Digital champion, représentant la France auprès de la commission européenne. Dans le cadre de ce déjeuner Gilles Babinet a pu développer les thèmes de son livre « L’ère numérique, un nouvel âge de l’humanité ».
En effet, au 18e siècle, l’invention de la machine à vapeur, à partir de prototypes produits dès le 16e siècle, entraîne la première révolution industrielle. Cette résolution se caractérise par la production en masse d’articles de plus en plus sophistiquée et rend possible l’industrialisation de procédés de plus en plus complexes, dans l’ensemble des secteurs activités (productions de biens, transports, …).
Au 19e siècle, l’extraction en quantité importante de pétrole et surtout la mise en œuvre de moteurs à explosion et de moteurs électriques, à partir d’une électricité produite grâce au charbon, entraîne la 2ème révolution industrielle, avec des machines puissances, qui changement complètement le fonctionnement de l’économie.
Gilles Babinet précise qu’au 20e siècle, l’avènement de l’informatique dans les années 80-90 entraine le passage à l’ère numérique, 3ème révolution industrielle. L’informatique démarre au début des années 40, avec le radar puis le transistor. Mais la résolution se produit réellement 60 ans plus tard, dans les années 2000, quand chaque employé possède un ordinateur puis un smartphone pour communiquer avec son entreprise. Encore une fois, l’ensemble de moyens de production sont touchés : on ne produit plus de bien sans ordinateurs pour gérer la production, pour piloter les robots, pour faire les comptes de l’entreprise ou booster son innovation. Aucun secteur n’est épargné : on produit des cultures agricoles grâce aux ordinateurs (dans les tracteurs, pour la prévision météo, pour faire les comptes …), on produit des biens grâce aux ordinateurs (pour piloter les robots, pour communiquer entre les personnes d’une entreprise, pour communique …). Tous les secteurs, tous les départements de l’entreprise sont touchés.
Gilles Babinet est passionnant ; ces analyses sont très intéressantes ; en résumant la situation, on peut estimer qu’on a actuellement une révolution industrielle qui émerge pas siècle. Et il faut du temps entre l’émergence de cette révolution et son application dans l’industrie à tous les étages de l’entreprise. L’innovation, exponentielle, grâce à la simulation qui permet l’ère numérique, est totalement booster par la 3ème révolution industrielle ; c’est pour cela qu’on parle tant de cette révolution…
Il est intéressant d’imaginer quelle pourrait être la prochaine révolution industrielle. J’ai ma petite idée là-dessus … je pense que les choses commenceront à émerger d’ici 30 ans ; et il faudra encore 30 ans pour que la 4ème révolution industrielle prenne forme. D’ici là profitons de la 3ème, transformons nos entreprises pour qu’elles utilisent au maximum les capacités permissent par cette 3ème révolution et tentons d’anticiper la 4ème !
I had the chance, on Thursday December 4th 2014, to participate to a lunch, organised by a French consulting company named Weave. This lunch was led by Frédéric Simottel from BFM Business and Gilles Babinet invited to the lunch. Gilles Babinet is the Digital Champion, representing France to the European Commission. Gilles was the first president of the National Digital Council, French organization set up by Nicolas Sarkozy, President of France at that time. As part of this lunch, Gilles Babinet, developed themes of his book “The digital era, a new age of humanity“.
Indeed, in the 18th century, the invention of the steam engine, starting with prototypes, produced in the 16th century, leads to the first industrial revolution. This revolution is characterized by the mass production of products, more and more sophisticated, and makes possible the industrialization of increasingly complex processes, in all sectors of activity (goods production, transport, …). In the 19th century, mining large quantities of oil, and the invention of internal combustion engines and electric motors using electricity produced from coal, results in the second industrial revolution, with power machines, which completely change the functioning of the economy and boosting the exchanges.
Gilles Babinet says that, in the 20th century, the advent of computers in 80-90 years causes the transition to the digital age, the third industrial revolution. The computer starts at the beginning of the 40s, with the radar and after the transistor in the 50s. But the revolution is actually happening 60 years later, in the 2000s, when every employee has a computer and a smartphone to communicate with his business. Again, all means of production are affected: there are no longer produced well without computers to manage production, to drive robots, to compute the accounts of the company or to boost innovation of them. No sector is spared: producing agricultural crops through computers (in tractors, for the weather forecast, for the accounts …) or producing goods through computers (to control robots, to communicate between people a company, to communicate by producing adverts…). Innovation, exponential, through simulation that allows the digital age, is totally boost by the third industrial revolution; This is why we hear so much of it after this revolution.
All sectors, all company departments, all people are affected. Gilles Babinet is exciting; these analyzes are very interesting. Summarizing the situation, we can estimate that currently there is an industrial revolution emerging each century. And it takes time between the emergence of the new revolution and its application in the industry at every level of the company.
It is interesting to imagine what could be the next industrial revolution. I have my idea about it … I think things will start to emerge within 30 years; and it will take 30 years for the fourth industrial revolution take shape. Until then enjoy the 3rd, transform our businesses to make maximum use of capacity through permissent this 3rd revolution and trying to anticipate the 4th.
How companies can nurture innovation and motivate their talents to bring innovations forward?
Each company is destined to get the results it gets. What I mean by this is that poor organization, lack of solid and sustainable innovation culture lead to poor results, and more than before, to a company’s trouble or death.
Smart business leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation. Success and constant positive results come from the implementation and execution of strategies, business models, structure, processes, technologies and incentive systems that encourage innovation.
1. Define your company’s mission around innovation
Many companies don’t have a mission statement, but for those which do, often times statements use generic terms, such as “best product in the world”, “best customer service”… They do not inspire employees to innovate. A strong and inspiring vision should be framed around how the company works to change its customer’s world, for the better.
2. Create the structure to allow employees to experiment new ideas with unstructured time
Successful innovative companies give time to their employees to get away from their daily tasks, to work on personal or company projects not directly related to their work. Then tap into this creative process.
3. Recognize employees’s contribution to the innovation process
Some companies offer monetized incentives. It is hard to assign a $ value to innovation; this is good for sales teams. Some companies give annual innovation awards; it is a good initiative for a short term, but it creates more competition than it encourages collaboration and creates emulation.
4. Return to the past
No new idea is completely original. Some concepts may not have materialized for various reasons, but it is always good to look at the past and understand why it did not work out. You avoid future mistakes, you can find ways to better the products (new technology, new process, new skill…). Start-up companies which by definition don’t have a past can look at what’s be done in the industry, what did not find success, and bounce off this to create something new.
5. Pay attention to culture, not trends
Culture is mass ideology – a system of values and beliefs that runs so deep we don’t question it. There’s an American belief in personal invention and reinvention. You see that in social products like Snapchat and Instagram, which allow us to invent ourselves in the moment. They may seem like a trend. But they reflect a deep underlying value.
6. Continuous education
Self-development is the key to employee’s success. In the same system where company should create a structure for unstructured time, those same companies should create time for continuous education. Allow employees to seek new interests, learn and develop new skills.
7. Allow failure
The essence of innovation is that it takes multiple experiments to successfully create new products, solutions, services. Failure is part of the innovation process. When employees are not afraid of failure, they will feel empowered to take risks and be “crazy”.
Yemi Adesokan, 35- year based Nigerian born researcher, has put his country’s name on the map of nations of innovation.
Adesokan’s discovery which has potential to change the way mankind responds to disease pathogens, according to experts, may bring an end the era of increased burden of drug resistance in the world particularly, in sub Saharan Africa.
When he moved to United States in 1996, little did the young innovator have realise that he was going to rub shoulders with some of the greatest names in scientific technology.
But today, Adesokan who has been listed by Technology Review, an independent media company owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (MIT) USA. as one of the TR35 Award of the 2011 World top innovators. Past recipients have included Sergey Brin (Google), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Konstantin Novoselev (later a Nobel Laureate in Physics).
Adesokan is being so specially honoured for his work in the application of next generation sequencing to clinical diagnostics. Adesokan, who is also the founder of Pathogenica Inc., was selected as a member of the TR35 class of 2011 by a panel of expert judges and the editorial staff of Technology Review, who evaluated more than 300 nominations.
This work is being carried out by a biotechnology startup that I founded with Prof George Church of Harvard Medical School DNA technology. The Pathogenica’s test kits are able to identify the presence, allowing for physicians to screen for multiple diseases with accurate results and a rapid turnaround.
Sequencing technologies have improved a million – fold in the past seven years, bringing scientists a wealth of individual genomics and the key now is to employ the data to improve clinical practice. The DNA sequence of each individual or organism is unique, and is the most detailed signature for identification.
This year marks one decade since the completion of the Human Genome Project, a three billion-dollar effort to sequence a human genome.
A major issue in Nigeria today, is that some sterilised water may contain harmful pathogens. The technology is useful in screening a range of pathogens in water, livestock (poultry, etc.), and in food manufacturing. The key point for this technology is its high multiple. As it scales up, we actually see a reduction in price.
With the innovation, the cost of DNA sequencing has dropped more than 40,000_fold since that time to just $5,000 today. The price continues to drop. We are applying this fast, inexpensive technology in a unique way to improve routine clinical diagnostics.
Disruptive innovation, a term of art coined by Clayton Christensen, describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.
As companies tend to innovate faster than their customers’ needs evolve, most organizations eventually end up producing products or services that are actually too sophisticated, too expensive, and too complicated for many customers in their market.
Companies pursue these “sustaining innovations” at the higher tiers of their markets because this is what has historically helped them succeed: by charging the highest prices to their most demanding and sophisticated customers at the top of the market, companies will achieve the greatest profitability.
However, by doing so, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations” at the bottom of the market. An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers at the bottom of a market access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill.
Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include: lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics. Because these lower tiers of the market offer lower gross margins, they are unattractive to other firms moving upward in the market, creating space at the bottom of the market for new disruptive competitors to emerge.
The medium-sized companies are becoming fashionable. Helping the crisis, their long-term vision has transformed these organizations ideal company. They are called innovative but ultimately knows how badly it is organized in this area. Analysis.
Do you know the “Global Niche players”? These businesses, often family, who managed to impose itself on the world market by cultivating excellence in a very specific area. This category is called the Mittelstand in Germany or ETI (midsize) in France, all show a system very similar values. They cultivate the art of long-term independence (including financial), love of work well done and are very attached to the mastery of skills (they prefer when it is “homemade”).
These “guidelines” have clearly shaped the culture of innovation in these companies. Several things make it unique compared to large groups. Highly specialized, these companies focus, for example, their efforts in R & D technology and a single. This feature could be deadly but instead stimulates the creativity of the teams. These last are always looking for new uses, new developments to expand the scope of the technology.
Develop performance for the customer
Management “good father” of these companies also impacts the way we consider the return on investment in innovation. Financing capacity is limited, ensure all develop applications more than concepts. SNF, a polymer specialist based in Saint-Étienne (France) providing chemical solutions including hydraulic fracturing, this “constraint” requires chemists to house state of the art scientific literature before making their new polymer and complete the project in six months to prove the concept.
This very applied creativity also requires businesses to include the end user of their product very early in the design. The goal is not to co-develop but to understand what competitive advantages they expect the products they sell them. Rational, a German manufacturer of kitchen equipment group, sells its customers ovens and cooking systems but places great emphasis on saving space that allows for innovation in the kitchen.
We have reached an inflection point within information technology (IT) where the conversation is moving from cost to value. IT is no longer focused on back-office infrastructure. In a digital world, the function has transformed to help unearth valuable data insights and define the future of products. Given the historical and deep knowledge with big data, security and infrastructure, the IT function plays an integral role in delivering delightful customer experiences across all digital platforms.
On a panel addressing how the Marketing and IT relationship has been reinvented, the more important one is the convergence between IT and marketing with the ability to take data capabilities in the IT organization and merge it with marketing aspirations. The Marketing and IT partnership is tighter than ever; both functions are working with synergy to implement and manage digital technology and leverage data insights to provide personalized experiences.
It is an exciting time in IT, from the role the function is playing in developing products and solutions to the new partnerships that are being forged to drive business impact. There are a number of fundamental tenets that will help IT leaders capitalize on the golden age of IT innovation:
- Shift to a Services Model: IT leaders need to shift their organization from a delivery model to an end-to-end services model. Move from a project management and back-end infrastructure role to taking on the total cost of ownership in developing services that help drive the profits of a company. With this model IT specialists have an ongoing partnership with the business, product, and marketing organizations and are embedded into those teams.
- Build New Skill Sets: The next generation of IT is re-defining the skill set and competencies of people in the organization. IT Specialists need to have an end-to-end services mindset where they work on smaller teams for longer periods of time and take a “you build it, you run it” approach. IT specialists also need to think more like marketers, as data is deeply embedded in the process of creating, targeting and delivering personalized experiences to customers.
- Think Like a CEO: The CIO is in the unique position to see the entire spectrum of the company’s operation and business. As CIOs’ influence broadens, they must think like a 21st century CEO having a strong acumen around running a business (P&L), anticipating customers’ needs, innovating experiences, and understanding the competitive environment.
- Entrust the Business: Leaders need to ensure they are prioritizing the projects that will truly drive business impact. Entrusting projects/initiatives to other groups or vendors is a very smart and strategic decision. By doing so, resources are freed up to focus on IT innovation and initiatives that help drive business revenue.
We should be energized by the opportunities that lie ahead in IT. Never before, the level of partnership and integration across the organization was higher than today. We are breaking down the barriers and silos and forging a new path for the next generation of IT.