Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Innovation - the key to success

Winston Adams

Innovation is the cornerstone of opportunity for corporations. With technological advances and a global economy, companies must be more innovative and flexible than ever if they are to thrive.

Fear of change within the corporate culture is the greatest obstacle to innovation and growth in corporations. Change is never easy or painless, but companies that do not innovate stagnate.

Companies that stagnate become tempting targets for current and potential competitors and eventually fail.

A company that avoids stagnation is playing to win. Playing to win requires trust and reward risk-taking and courage. Innovative companies encourage and expect creative thinking and problem solving.

The need for leadership and management of both innovation and people has never been greater.

Companies must be led by developing creative management teams. The first task of the innovative processes is to transform the way organisations operate. They must embrace a more flexible and organic model for organising business operations in order to foster innovation.

There are several methodologies that a company can adapt.


Open-book management is an innovative approach to corporate management. This means that every employee has to focus on helping the company they are working in to make money.


Historically, companies needed employees who would show up for work every morning and do exactly what they were told.

There has been a paradigm shift since then. Many companies now realise they would be better off if they were to encourage employees to think.

Employers now see the benefits of hiring employees who are concerned about the company's long-term success; not just their own personal financial situation.

Workers are asked to accept additional responsibilities including prioritising and scheduling, problem-solving, in-process quality control and cost containment.

Studies show a statistically significant correlation between employee empowerment, gain sharing, and participation in decision-making and corporate performance.

Open-book management and employee empowerment work well together because they make companies more competitive by getting every employee to think and act like a business owner, rather than simply a hired gun.

These innovative approaches to management help employees to act differently and to think differently. These programmes fundamentally change the link between the employee and the company.


Another innovative approach to corporate management involves process re-engineering.

No one would argue that re-engineering helps companies control costs, but for many workers re-engineering is thought of as synonymous with downsizing and layoffs.

Thus, an announcement that the company is planning to re-engineer a position is often met with concern among current employees which will have an affect on both morale and productivity.

An innovative approach would be to use process engineering as a tool to drive down costs and improve productivity. In order to encourage the active participation of current employees, management could commit to no forced layoffs as a result of the re-engineering process meaning that anyone displaced would be transferred if possible and retrained if necessary.

Such a programme would focus on eliminating inefficiencies and waste, not cutting head count.


To encourage workers to think like owners, they should be rewarded like owners. The more certain the link between performance and reward, the more likely it will be that company employees will strive to achieve specific performance goals.


Risks are an unavoidable aspect of being in business. Another innovative approach to corporate management involves accepting the implications of the axiom: The greater the opportunity, the greater the risk.

An innovative company will evaluate and accept some, but certainly not all of the avoidable risks.


Robert Miles in Leading Corporate Transformation suggests that one innovative approach to corporate management involves a more holistic approach by senior management to the way in which their company is organised.

Miles suggests a total system framework for examining the organisation for weaknesses using this approach:

The process starts by understanding or articulating the vision for the organisation.

The vision must be supported by business strategies.

Strategies in turn are supported by the formal structural elements which define levels of authority.

Infrastructure supports the structural elements. In this context, infrastructure includes control planning, resource allocation systems, communications systems and channels, and the planning function.

The workforce is measured in terms of its ability to support the four elements listed above.

The workforce and everything above it is supported by the firm's core competencies.

The culture of the organisation, including the values and the beliefs shared by most employees should support the decisions made by senior management and the actions taken to accomplish the goals described above.

Miles explains that the purpose of this analysis is to find and fix gaps. The further up the list the gaps are found, the more serious the situation becomes. Once the total system is examined, the task is to see how quickly and how effectively these gaps can be plugged.

These businesses encourage employee growth, and in return, they expect out-of-the-box thinking, creative problem-solving in addition to excellent performance every day from their employee-partners.

(Jamaica Gleaner)

towards excellence>>

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