Recognising Innovation within the Corporate Cave

caveman

I sat with a smug facial expression cross-legged on the lumpy dirt floor and surveyed my surroundings with intense pride. It was raining outside, yet no drops were seeping through my hand built stonewalls, and no streams of muddy water had eventuated within the precincts of my large cave.

My nineteen bɛərns (or was it twenty? I’d lost count over the various moon cycles) were playing happily with the latest fashion coloured pebbles that I had found in the adjacent dry riverbed. I watched them with interest as they quickly mastered the process of carving their individual hieroglyphic names into the rough rock walls with purpose and enthusiasm.

From under my long shaggy eyebrows, I peered at the mother of my children as she gestured that it was time for me to get off my naked hairy backside and go outside and slaughter a foreboding baby dinosaur, as the children were getting hungry and restless. As I was an obedient husband, knowing that any grunting retort was useless, I grabbed my large pointy wooden club, wiped the dark dry dust of my hairy torso and went outside the cave and sought out our dinner.

After a couple of days wandering the rugged countryside, I returned in a rather weary state with a large amount of dinosaur meat that was fully encapsulated within its dead body.

Now for the cooking process. I marvelled at the technology that my eldest son displayed as he used a flint rock and some dry bark to which various small sparks of fire eventually propagated. His days at the local Rock University had certainly paid off. I just wish that I had been born in the year 70,000,032 BC, rather than 30 years earlier!

After we had all eaten a large quantity of rarely cooked meat, I once again sat down crossed legged on my hairy bare bottom and watched my walls.

Now that I had some time to relax, I recalled a small box with white red headed sticks that I had found in my hunting dinosaur travels. If I were able to read, I would have seen a label on the box that identified the article as “safety matches”. How they got into the year 70,000,032 BC, I will never know, not that I really care because I have no idea as to their use, nor benefit. Instead, I jammed the box into a hole in my cave wall and plugged a wind draught that was causing the smoke from the fire to extinguish.
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Let’s now move forward to the year 2015 AD.

If we were that hairy-bottomed caveman, and we had found those matches, we would have put them to good use and initiated the fire with the striking of a strategically placed burning match head. However, if we don’t recognise new technology, or innovation, we tend to keep repeating the same old trusted and proven boring processes.

The key is to have an open mind and to continually observe and accept different ideas, or thoughts, as they may lead to a new way of doing things within your business. Diversity of thought should be encouraged, and your work environment should facilitate different employee perspectives, that way, innovation will have a chance to prosper and not be stifled.

So make sure that you and your work colleagues “think outside the cave”, and should any of your workers continually be dusting their bottom, well, they don’t have a place in your business!

Vanilla Flavoured Diversity

My Primary Workhorse

Signed……Steven Cramer. The black ink that had just permeated from my treasured fountain pen was almost dry on my new employment contract. I gleefully looked once again at the document, and then with an eager and expectant smile on my face, I carefully folded the paper, placed it in the reply-paid envelope and put it aside ready to be posted to my new employer.

All of us have at some stage in our working careers have experienced the excitement associated with starting a job with a new corporate organization, or a new role within your existing company. Prior to us starting this new role, we have many ideas and thoughts on how and what we are going to achieve, we do not impose any limitations, nor do we expect the organization or our fellow colleagues to hamper any progress on the attainment of these objectives.

Unfortunately, many of us after a few years working for the same organization lose this positive and creative persona and slowly morph into a common and accepted form of corporate behaviour where any diversity of thought is progressively extinguished. The result is a “vanilla flavoured” corporate culture that is prevalent in many corporate company’s today.

But does this need to be the case?

A thought.
Why do we not ask all new employees to write down their career aspirations on what they would like to achieve prior to the first day of their employment? This untainted document could then be stored for a period of time (say 3-5 years) following which it is then opened and reread by the employee and discussed with a senior member of the management team. It would be interesting for the employee to see how their enthusiasm has been maintained or even increased over the time period, or has it been severely hindered? If the latter, then what has caused this negativity and how could the corporate culture be improved to encourage and foster a greater diversity of thought?

Many companies talk about the concept of diversity, but are quite content to operate in the “vanilla flavoured” business environment. When a new employee starts, they may be flavoured “strawberry, blueberry, or even have lumps of chocolate” diffusing through their personality. But after a period of time, this creative flavour may have been slowly purged and replaced with the approved corporate taste. If an organization truly values diversity, why focus on the attainment of the “vanilla”?

There are many great benefits to a company if their employees do think that little bit differently, particularly with respect to innovation which could be utilised in a variety of different areas such as new product development, improvements in service offering or potential business expansions outside the traditional norm? If all employees think the same way (“vanilla”), then opportunities for innovation and creativity will be severely restricted.

So next time you are about to start a new role, may I suggest that you capture your thoughts and aspirations and revisit them later in your working career. The rereading might be quite enlightening, particularly for you, and your organization?

Too Many Cooks do NOT Spoil the Broth

Too Many Chefs

There are many key factors required to achieve a magnificent slow cooked gourmet soup.

First, there is the Chef that coordinates the whole cooking process utilising their wealth of experience based on a proven and never ending method of trial and error leading to the desired soup result. Next are the ingredients that when merged together in the right proportions yield that optimum flavour and texture. Let us also not forget the liquid within which all the ingredients can be distilled, can freely permeate, and then combine to form the necessary soup consistency. Other important requirements are heat, time and a suitable cooking pot to allow the progression of the ultimate soup masterpiece.

A successful Chef will also welcome feedback from their peers and will happily consider their suggestions on other exotic ingredients that may compliment and improve their recipe. Some of these ingredients may provide an immediate taste impact, others may take time to infuse and then add a more complex and subtle addition.

The combined result of all of the above is the achievement of gourmet soup perfection!

However, this soup methodology can also be applied to the process of innovation in the corporate office.

The Chef
There needs to be an owner of the innovation process that coordinates all the idea inputs and directs the progression towards the required end result. The key is to have one Master Chef, but also numerous Apprentice Chefs that can assist and take-over when required so the innovation process doesn’t lose momentum and focus (after-all, without the proper attention from the chef(s), the soup may boil over and be ruined!)

The Pot
Ideas need a receptacle for their collection and development. Suggestions for this could be a corporate internal communication forum where thoughts are shared and discussed in an open environment, a brainstorming session, or other creative methods that meet the cultural needs of the organisation. The pot needs to be of the right size to accommodate all the ideas that might be generated throughout the process. Too small a pot may lead to participant frustration; too large a pot may lead to ideas being lost?

The Ingredients
Ideas need to come from many sources within the corporate organisation. All employees should be invited to participate to allow for greater diversity of thought and enhanced potential creativity. These ideas can then be further refined and combined by the skill of the Chef’s team as appropriate.

The Soup
The business needs to have an overall objective for the output generated from the innovation process. For instance, a Chef will know whether they are planning to make a soup and not a cake! If the objective were deemed to be a cake, then a completely different methodology would be required.

Time, Heat
Ideas need time to develop and mix with others that are placed into the cooking pot. Some ideas need to be broken down further via additional analysis (or heat) following which a new array of exciting and complex ideas may become evident.

You may recall that old saying “Too many cooks will spoil the broth”. Well, in this instance, you need many, many cooks as each cook (or fellow employee) brings with them a wealth of different ideas all based on their own insights and experiences. It is the collection of these ideas that leads to an endless array of innovation and creativity. The secret to innovative success is how these multitudes of ideas are mixed and brought together in a format that reinforces innovation. This is where the role of the Master Chef is so important in blending all these ideas into a soup that meets the requirements and tastes of the organisation.

To conclude, may these ideas help you develop a brilliant soup based on that distinctive taste of your own corporate innovation! Bon appetite!

 

Time Travel in the Present?

Clock

How brilliant it would be if we could travel in time! By doing so, we could gain experiences from the past which we could utilize in the present and in the future.

Well, believe it or not, we do have this ability! We can all travel back in time for approximately 100 years! The process is quite simple. It involves us talking, listening and observing those people around us who cover a broad range in age from those who have just been born, to those in their later years of life. This time period is…..about 100 years!!

The key is to learn from others and utilize their experiences in our own lives.

From a business perspective, diversity of age and experience in the workplace provides a rich environment of ideas, we just have to tap into it and encourage and facilitate this innovative version of time travel.

The need for plant diversity in the corporate garden

A mowed lawn

In most organisations there is a corporate identity that defines the culture of the employees and the way that they think. This has its benefits, but it may also limit innovation and creativity.

Let’s consider the analogy of a green lawn. The identity is all “one team” with a large number of identical green blades of grass (the individual employees). Each single blade of grass reacts in a standard way to the same sunlight, water and fertilizer, even when you mow it, it all grows back with uniformity awaiting the next scheduled gardening session.

But what if you introduce some strategically placed coloured flowers into the lawn? Visually, they would make a significant difference, but they would not disturb the overall functioning of the lawn.

However, these coloured additions also attract other plant life, insects, birds and other creatures that would contribute to the overall functioning and diversity of the lawn.

So let’s go and plant some flowers in the corporate garden and cultivate some innovation and creativity!