Thinking About Innovation

Roberto MuñizOver the last year I've been involved in many conversations about innovation, both here at Parker and at industry meetings. Whether it's called innovation, transformational work, creative thinking, or other catchphrase, we spend a lot of time trying to define what the words mean rather than doing the work. And I think that's because the work is hard to describe - what is innovation? Innovation can mean one thing here at Parker and something entirely different for other organizations.
Innovation on a grand scale is the uber-ization of transportation services. At Parker, it might mean enhancing an existing program to serve participants in a very different way, such as developing an app for our health and wellness program (a work in progress).
In many organizations, discussions about innovation happen at the highest levels of leadership. That's great for the small group of people involved, but what about the other 99% of an organization?
Innovation can happen anywhere in an organization. It's about fostering an environment that allows for creative thinking to flourish, where great ideas, and sometimes not so great ideas, can develop without bias, and a system is in place so these ideas can move through the organization to be acted on.
In an article I was reading about fostering innovation, there was a comment about "people performing their best when encouraged to push their boundaries and think outside the box." That sounds great, but in senior care organizations there is a tendency to focus on what we must do (i.e. regulations and compliance) rather than what we want to do.
This is where leaders must serve as role models for envisioning and communicating what the greater possibilities might be, and motivating employees to do the same. We've all heard the saying "there is no such thing as a stupid question”, and we must empower our employees to be comfortable in thinking that "there is no such thing as a stupid idea or suggestion."
If you build a culture of being receptive to new ideas and different ways of thinking from anyone, anywhere, in an organization, innovation becomes organic and employees will become engaged in the process on a day-to-day basis.
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." - Albert Einstein

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