“Innovation Project” A Success!

Today, our class presented our findings to a panel of senior managers at KPMG. I’m happy to announce that my learning group tied for first with 577 points (out of 700 possible points, 100 ea. per panel member x 7 panel members). It was only with heated debate amongst panel members that the tie was broken and the other team came out on top. We proudly finished second overall with what we expect as about an 82 for our efforts (since a 70 is distinction (honored) in the UK, an 82 is the equivalent of an A++).
As mentioned within a previous post, our topic centered on “how to foster innovation within a professional services organization”. The key points that flowed from our research are:

–Firms that wish to foster innovation must allow their employees to fail. If employees believe that they will be chastised for failure, it’s likely that they’ll simply do what they must to maintain the status quo.

–In order for a firm to be or become innovative, they must hire individuals who are passionate about bettering themselves and pro-active in their search for “better ways”. If these characteristics are not innate, employees cannot be coached to acquire them.

–To be innovative, employees need time. If employees are expected to put in 40-60 hours of work per week to meet performance expectations, they will not have adequate time to consider and reflect upon “why” and “how”.

–Companies should not over prescribe systems and processes for innovation. While organizers might like to come up with a procedure, it’s not conducive to the creative thought process–it actually stifles it.

–If a firm wishes to be or become innovative, it must link the compensation program to the behaviours they wish for employees to embody. This is true to all desired characteristics…

–The importance of creating a stimulating environment. If you wish for individuals to use their “right-brain”, you must step away from the beige walls and grey carpet that plague the corporate environment. Create work environments that support excitement and intrigue. Likewise, if collaboration is important to the task to be undertaken, ensure that there are adquate spaces (or perhaps an open plan office) for group assembly.

–A knowledge management system must be implemented to better link individuals within the organization and to allow them the opportunity to benefit from the experiences and insights others provide.

— All levels of management (but particularly senior management) must be involved in and dedicated to the successful implementation of the program. Innovation programs (like other programs to encourage cultural change) take time–often 3-7 years–to implement. Without dedication, the program may be “finished” prematurely without full implementation with no recognized benefits to the firm.

— Innovation is a catch phrase–just like “synergy” in years past. However, it’s not for everyone in every industry. Before considering this strategy or approach, each firm must confirm that it is a good fit with their people and customers.

The bottomline on innovation is that the principles are common sense, but not common practice.

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