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Building a workplace culture of innovation through creativity & discipline

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Blending creativity with discipline

As we enter the new year, most of us take stock of the good things that happened during the past year and develop plans to orchestrate even more. Many of those noteworthy things came from a bright idea that led to successful outcomes. At Augeo, we often work with companies to help them engage their workforce, increase productivity, and tap into employee creativity for fresh thinking and new ideas.

The latest issue of Harvard Business Review (January-February 2019) has an article on innovation that caught my eye. It breaks down the essential ingredients of workplace innovation and explores some of the myths surrounding the corporate suggestion box.

The conventional wisdom is that successful innovation depends on:

  1. Providing an environment where there is a tolerance for failure and a willingness to experiment
  2. It's safe to speak up
  3. The process is highly collaborative and non-hierarchical

The more insightful commentary points out that these behaviors should be counterbalanced by "tougher behavior that's less fun":

  1. An intolerance for incompetence
  2. Rigorous discipline
  3. Brutal candor
  4. High level of individual accountability

Gary P. Pisano, Professor at Harvard Business School and author of the article points out that, "a culture conducive to innovation is not only good for a company's bottom line. It also is something that both leaders and employees value in their organizations". He goes on to say, "Creativity can be messy, it needs discipline and management".

For the past several years, Augeo has offered companies seeking internal innovation, a platform with a proven methodology and a structured process for program management. The platform is called "Ideas at Work".

"Ideas at Work" is an employee engagement program that, unlike traditional employee suggestion programs, gives a voice to the entire organization through a web-based platform that makes ideas easy to collect, review, implement and reward. The program requires no upfront investment and is funded by results–actual cost savings.

The process and discipline of the Ideas at Work platform helps companies move from good ideas to result-producing, disciplined innovation. Our advice if you are planning to launch an innovation initiative in 2019:

  1. Provide an organizational structure and defined process for your freeform innovation generation sessions.
  2. Focus on teamwork. We have found that not only is the proliferation of ideas enhanced by teams but the "self-vetting" that occurs leads to better ideas.
  3. Concentrate innovation efforts into a defined timeframe. When innovation efforts are focused as a campaign, within 90-days for instance, results can be more predictably realized.

Example of results from Ideas at Work
In three separate campaigns over an 18-month period using the Ideas At Work platform, a hospital network was able to realize over $6.7 million in savings. Ideas submitted had a 41% approval rate and the average savings per idea was more than $55,000. The top idea saved $487,000 in one year. Throughout the system, over 120 teams participated in the program helping create a spirit of collaboration and a culture of innovation.

Workplace Engagement
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