Nature teaches us that genetic diversity is a good thing. It creates the environment for change and drives evolution.
For innovation, diversity of a different sort is just as vital. Diversity of perspective and ideas creates the same type of change enabling dynamic. There are many ways companies try to tap into different perspectives. Here I want to point out a simple but often overlooked path to innovation genetic diversity.
This morning, I conducted a working design session with some of my product engineers. However instead of just having the usual cadre of architects in the room, today we had team members who weren’t engineers involved in the discussion. I had invited them specifically to gain the benefit of their non-engineering centric point of view. It was a fabulously productive session and helped to fill several voids in the thinking to date on a new product concept.
These non-engineering participants had to go far out of their way to attend the meeting. (They both have 2+ hour commutes to get to the office.) How did they feel about being asked to come in just for this meeting? When I began the meeting by thanking them for coming in, one of them responded by saying, “Are you kidding? When I told someone on the train going home last night that I had been asked to come in for the meeting because the company wanted my input on a new product we are designing, several people said “Boy, I wish my company valued my opinion.””
Bottom line is that this simple exercise was a win at multiple levels. From the product design perspective, the input of the non-engineers was invaluable. From the company perspective, the resulting product will undoubtedly deliver much high value to our customers as a result of this session. From an HR perspective, these workers feel more enfranchised in their job roles. How could one hope for a better outcome!
Innovation leaders must recognize that they are not the only source of relevant concepts to drive innovation. What’s more, you can’t always predict where the valued input will come from, nor can you expect people will always recognize when they have a valuable contribution to make. Yet, there people in your organizational eco-system that have big contributions to make.
In order to tap into your organization’s innovation gene pool, make it a practice to reach out to people who are not always included in the discussion and draw them in. Both you and they will be surprised at the value this brings. Also, use technology to help connect your knowledge workers. Since you can’t predict where the great idea may come from, implement a passive collaboration environment that connects people around their actionable knowledge.
Take these two steps and you will see a great lift in your organization’s innovation capability