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INNOVATION AT GROUND ZERO

by Bray J. Brockbank

In today's rapidly changing world, entrepreneurs and executives must
create a "culture of innovation" that increases performance and output
throughout the organization. Too often, this creation process of cultural
innovation starts with a poorly defined and communicated message,
leaving middle-management to divine the message, process, and
implementation.

For innovation to be an integral part of an organization, the tone must
emanate from the top of the organization down. Innovation must be
reflected in human performance, systems, processes and technology.

Innovation is the most critical -- and most often overlooked element for
sustained organizational success in the New Economy. The New Economy
is really an economy of innovation. Only innovators forge ahead, for
innovation is essential for economic survival in the New Economy.


BUILDING THE FOUNDATION FOR INNOVATION

Innovation is one of the most fundamental challenges businesses
face today. Innovation requires selecting the best ideas, people,
and resources to create new products, services, business systems
and practices -- then using them to stay ahead of the competition
through successful and sustainable cultural innovation.

Entrepreneurs and executives must know what innovation really is,
how to create it, and how to sustain it. Innovation is many things,
including: applied creativity, adaptive response, proactive
performance, empowerment, and visionary thinking.

Applied creativity. An organization must not only think creatively,
but be able to apply creativity. Creativity without application is
useless to the organization.

Adaptive response. Adaptive organizations generate insights for
new products, services, and processes. This requires redefining the
organization and revolutionizing "what is " to conform to the vision
of "what should be."

Proactive performance. The New Economy is built on "speed,
innovation, and adaptability." An organizations' success depends
on its human performance. Proactively developing innovative ways
to raise organizational performance is the responsibility of the
organizational leadership.

Empowerment. Knowledge workers are no longer content with just
performing work, they want to be empowered to get things done.
Centralization of power will no longer work. Today, power and
authority must be delegated, distributed and handed down throughout
the organization.

Visionary thinking. Entrepreneurs and executives should be chief
innovation officers. As chief innovation officers they create new
methodologies for organizational innovation, developing new
products, services, platforms and business ventures.


DRIVE CHANGE AND INNOVATION

For innovation to be possible, change must be possible. Change
must be embraced and present.
I see five fundamental steps necessary for driving organizational
change and innovation:

First, visionary leadership. Change is almost always resisted, ignored,
rejected, or resented by those forced to confront it. Visionary leaders
understand "change-resistant environments" and focus on creating
"change-adept environments", where employees embrace change.

Second, people-centric. Organizational performance is the summation
of individual performances. Change without fundamental, people-centric
focus and process will fail. The organization needs to buy-in to the
change through an understanding and acceptance of the motivation
behind the change.

Third, understanding abilities and proficiencies. Visionary leaders must
understand their organization and its human capital abilities and
inabilities. Constraints in achieving objectives must be accepted and
improved upon. Without the right human capital in place, change and
innovation will fail.

Fourth, collaboration. Organizations need to embrace collaborative
technologies. As organizations become more organic, diverse, and
geographical, technology will bring people, systems, and resources
together. Emerging technologies such as e-Learning, learning
management systems (LMS), customer relationship management (CRM),
knowledge management (KM), and web-based technologies allow
organizations the ability to collaborate across the world. These
management systems support facilitation for exchanging best practices,
knowledge, customer information, real-time access to experts within
the organization, training and development, customized marketing
information, and collaborative work environments for project teams.

Fifth, open technology mind-set. Technologies must be fully integrated
to create a complete organizational solution. Modular in concept and
practice - where all the modules, components, or systems
communicate and work together - without dependencies on each
other. This allows unrestricted addition and removal of components
as the organization grows. Adopted technologies must have the
capacity to work with new or emerging technologies yet to be marketed or
conceptualized. Entrepreneurs and executives need to be champions
of this approach, to manage change at scale and speed -- technological
advances must be embraced and adopted.


POINT OF CONTACT

Ground zero is the point of contact between an organization and its
customers. Today, interaction between customers and organizations is
more complex, customers are more demanding, sophisticated, and
difficult to retain. To succeed in this environment, innovation must be
present at point of contact. Organizations must:

1. Focus on optimal performance to meet ever-growing and changing
customer expectations.
2. Understand the customer wants and needs; past, present, and future.
3. Manage new and traditional points of customer contact.
4. Recognize and serve best customers.

By understanding the four principles, innovative organizations find ways
to use customer knowledge now and in the future.


COLLABORATION + CREATIVITY = INNOVATION

The focal point for successful businesses in the 21st century will be a
continuum that begins with the creation of new ideas -- creativity - culminating
through the application of new ideas, processes, products, and services
that create value for the organization -- innovation.

An organization must be able to gather, share, and use knowledge about its
customers, market, suppliers, and partners. Through this process the
organization ensures that new innovative products and services will be
designed to meet customer and market needs. This is accomplished
through effective collaboration across disparate disciplines and departments,
such as sales, marketing, R&D, engineering, QA, and design.

This requires a methodology, a culture, and a system for sharing ideas
and capturing best practices from design through development. It ensures
that the organization has the expertise, knowledge, and resources it needs
to assess business problems and opportunities as they occur.

Unfortunately, most organizations do not operate in a collaborative environment,
but rather operate in isolation, where each department is compartmentalized
and segregated from the other. Consequently, smothering new ideas and creativity.

In an over-crowded marketplace, the capacity to innovate gives organizations
the competitive edge that differentiates them from their competitors. For
organizations to remain in a continuous state of innovation, a perpetual
free-flow of ideas is necessary. Organizations need to rediscover the
wealth of creative potential and knowledge within their own workforce.
Rediscovery begins from the top of the organization down.

In the future, the management of ideas will be the mantra; executives
will orchestrate by creating opportunities for organizational collaboration,
creativity, and innovation. Only the innovative will prevail. Got innovation?


Bray J. Brockbank is an entrepreneur and a technology integrations
consultant for Learnframe, a leading KnowledgE-commerce (TM) and e-Learning
infrastructure technologies corporation; bbrockbank@learnframe.com, 800-738-9800.

** Editor: Permanent contact information: brayjbrockbank@hotmail.com or 801-766-9861.**



 
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