by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor
HAVING JUST READ the book The Idea-Driven Organization: Unlocking the Power in Bottom-Up Ideas by Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder, I’m eager to recommend this book to anyone looking for ways to motivate improvements in processes and incite organizational change. From the early pages in the book the authors describe the survival of a few companies, all of which are attributed to skilled innovative techniques by front line employees and perceptive managers. This book is so well researched and insightfully written, there is no way to cover all the excellent points. I’m going to skip through the book and share my favorite points. But get the book and read it for its penetrating value in creating an innovative organization.
Power in Ideas
Once a problem is identified, ask front-line staff for ideas on how to solve it. This changes the dynamic from a command-and-control approach that’s top-directed and top-driven to top-directed and bottom-driven. This leads to a more successful solution.
Problem sensitivity is a key driver to problem resolution. Ideas begin with problems. Expose people to problems so they recognize them and think about how to solve them.
Leadership differences in innovative organizations
One chapter describes the disparity between managers who pay attention to front line employees and those who have raised to superiority and are more concerned with self-promotion. Managing from a core of power undermines innovation. Power brings out tendencies that work against freedom to share and acknowledge ideas. A few provocations: Power reduces a person’s thinking ability to consider alternatives; People with power listen less carefully and with less objectivity; People with power are less accurate in their estimates of interest and positions of others.
To lead an innovative organization, humility is a prerequisite for managing in an idea-driven manner, the leader must be improvement oriented and execution minded, and here’s a characteristic that’s indispensable – the leader must work well collaboratively.
This is just my perspective, but the meat of the book is in Chapter 4, Aligning the Organization to be Idea Driven: Management Systems
This chapter talks about resources and budgeting. It acknowledges that even the simplest of ideas is going to require a little money. There will be a need for support resources, procedures could change, policies and rules may need to be modified. There is even a section on Policymaking. The culmination of this chapter is wrapped around aligning processes and procedures. Admittedly evaluation and reward systems may be developed along the way. The authors discuss this aspect as well in a brief narrative.
Chapter 5 delves into How Effective Idea Processes Work. They include Kaizen Teian (Japanese for Improvement Suggestion) which takes time to structure and perform than the more traditional Team-Based Process Improvement. Team based processes are designed to bring Opportunities for Improvement to their workgroups or departments.
Not to leave the serious idea innovator to process and implement the ideas this book entails without guidance, Chapter 6 maps out the nine steps to successfully implement what the author have taught chapter by chapter through the book.
Chapter 8 brings the content all together and summarizes concisely just before the index which I love about this book as well. The index, coupled with Key Points at the conclusion of each chapter makes this a valuable, easy reference tool. This is why I wish my management team had been able to read this book.
It’s been a few years now, but I remember the excitement of being invited to participate in an offsite meeting, topic title: The Next Big Thing! Awesome … or so I thought at the time. I’m a team player to the core and the opportunity to share thoughts and map out innovative ideas got my enthusiasm cranked. We met for two full days, drained boxes of magic markers, blew through assorted sticky notes of all sizes and colors, and drew charts on flip charts scattered around the room. I wish I could say the session was a success and we actually implemented The Next Big Thing. In fact, I don’t recall any thing being implemented; in fact, I don’t remember any assignments or projects to follow up on.
The Next Big Thing could have become The Next Big Thing with things learned in this book.