Oftentimes when I am walking through the city, I grab my phone and click a picture. Typically, I’m trying to capture a moment or a memory for later. But recently I’ve started noticing that just looking through that lens alters the way I think about – and even approach – whatever I’m experiencing. It got me thinking about the critical role perspective plays in just about everything in life.
In my role, I have the privilege to meet many of the most innovative people in my company and hear their ideas. While many of them fall within typical innovation roles – R&D, product development, etc. – many of the most innovative ideas come from people who approach innovation from an entirely different perspective. Strong ideas have come from people in project management, human resources, legal counsel, finance and many other teams not traditionally known for innovation. It has taught me the power of engaging all of our potential innovators – especially those employees who approach innovation through a much different lens.
Part of the role of an innovation leader is to create an environment where employees from all perspectives can have a voice and platform to share and execute their ideas – and then celebrate and spotlight their efforts.
In this spirit, I have spent significant time considering:
- How can we best foster widespread employee engagement in our innovation efforts? How can we engage employees at all levels, job roles and geographies to ensure we are capturing the full potential of our innovative talent? Two years ago, we launched a fund to provide seed money and support to pilot early stage ideas from across the organization. We continue to evolve that and other efforts to truly engage the breadth and depth of our organization.
- How can we ignite our customer-facing staff’s passion to help drive our innovation efforts? It sounds obvious, but customers must be in the center of our innovation efforts. Our customer-facing staff provides the window to our customers, providing a perspective that can’t be matched elsewhere in the organization. How can we work hand-in-glove with these teams to craft new experiences, products and operations that drive the next big thing?
- Can we shift our lens to focus on some markets that are ripe for transformation? Is the next big opportunity akin to Uber, AirBnB or even Amazon before them, where the ticket to their success was in disrupting industries that had been stuck in the past? Rather than looking at the next breakthrough technology and retrofitting it to an industry, is our next breakthrough a far more foundational shift to a marketplace or business model?
None of this is to say that there isn’t a place for the more traditional R&D and other innovation teams. To the contrary, they become even more critical in helping make new ideas reality and they must be properly supported, funded and celebrated. However, I believe that the healthiest organizations also acknowledge and nurture the people (partners, customers and employees alike) who approach their roles and contributions with a keen focus on innovating. We can do this by empowering, supporting, incubating and highlighting the people who are gutsy enough to share and deliver on new ideas that only they can see.