We’ve taken a look in this series at the corporate need for innovation, ways to tell if your company is innovative, and some of the effects of globalization on innovation . But, we haven’t talked about how Cubicle Warriors can be innovative working in corporations.
It’s easy to get lost in all those cubes. So many rows of cubes and so little impact in a big corporation. But, there are things you can do to increase your innovation and creativity skills that will make a difference and help you become a Cubicle Warrior. Here are five of my suggestions:
- Know your company culture to know where to innovate. If your company is known as an “engineering” company, it is unlikely that you will be able to do much product innovation. Instead, in this culture, focus on innovative ideas around the processes used in operations and try and improve that area.
- Innovate in increments. The news bulletins will tell you about the latest whiz-bang innovation thing – but most innovation comes from continuous improvement of existing processes and work for the customer. Can we reduce cycle time a little bit? Can we improve the quality and keep the cost the same? These are the little things that over a course of a year or two really add up to a big thing.
- Innovation means knowing how to count. Innovation and creativity must have a business benefit either to the customer or to the operational efficiency of the company. And Corporate America does that by counting things. What was the cycle time before the innovation was implemented? What is it after? What was the time to close before the innovation? What is it after the innovation? What was our cost to produce a widget before the innovation and what was it after? These counting exercises – producing data that correctly shows the impact of innovation – are critical to your innovative and creative ideas being considered successful.
- Support the innovative ideas of others. It’s easy to blow up an idea for innovation and say all the reasons it won’t work. It’s hard to support an idea, work with it to refine it into something that can be done, and then get support to go do the idea. You won’t be successful at innovation if you won’t support other innovative ideas in your group. Cubicle Warriors support good ideas from wherever they come from.
- Complete the implementation and report results. How many times have you seen you or your group start something and never finish it? Or, you finish what you started but you didn’t count your stuff before and after you implemented your idea so you can gauge success? Way too often, in my experience. If you and your group makes the big effort to come up with ways to improve operations or products, then engage resources (i.e., YOU) to implement it, make sure you do and can show the results of the implementation (see Counting, above). Too often, we let our work lay there without knowing if what we did helped or hurt. Be the one that delivers.
Innovation and creativity are one of the most fun aspects of work. It allows you, especially on the right team, to brainstorm improvements, work on making something better, and seeing the results of your ideas in the context of the problem to solve or improvement to make. Let’s be real – it’s tough to be in a position to change the world. But innovate what is in front of you every day because it helps all of us who work in cubes.
Next, we’ll take a final look at the corporate and personal traps from innovation and creativity.