Often organizations try to drive innovation by placing responsibility in one department (e.g. R&D, marketing, product development or some other organizational silo). We fondly call this the “innovation ghetto.” As you might have guessed by our choice of language, it’s not the way to derive true value from innovation.

A recent tour of a plate glass factory (not located in a ghetto) provided some important lessons about imbuing innovation (or leadership) throughout an organization. Manufacturing glass is clearly (ha ha) a dangerous process involving huge hoppers of raw materials heated to 3200 degrees Fahrenheit. The material eventually cools into fragile, razor-sharp and potentially deadly final products.

It was “shattering” to hear there was no safety department — yet the plant had a stellar safety record. Here’s the point: rather than having one person or team accountable for safety, everyone in the organization was responsible. Even the most junior person in the operation could point out risks and ensure there were no injuries.

In sharp contrast, innovation initiatives will melt away when they are relegated to one department or arena. When one person or group is responsible, the subtext is that innovation ONLY happens in that one person or department, removing the responsibility for innovation from others. When everybody is on the lookout for opportunities that can build or replace current paradigms, an organization can thrive. Innovation can drive improvements in the 10 types of innovation that the Doblin Group identified: profit model, network, structure, process, product performance, product system, service, channel, brand and customer engagement (Doblin Group, ND).

So, to keep on the cutting edge, how do you ensure innovation is happening in every corner of your organization?

Source:  “Becoming a Leader Who Fosters Innovation” white paper, by David Magellan Horth and Jonathan Vehar

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