Image Credit: Victor Coin
How do you nurture an environment that breeds innovation? This is a million dollar question – and in the long run, the most common strategy is to employ the sharp minds of skilled leaders and then assemble them into effective teams. But as it turns out, some of the greatest innovations happening today begin in a completely different way: leaders employ sharp minds, but they do not integrate into their team.
So who does? The team members themselves.
Groups arranged in this way are called different things: “empowered,” “self-directed,” or “autonomous.” Regardless of what they are called, the survey found that 79% of Fortune 1000 companies and 81% of manufacturing companies currently implement some version of this policy. Implementation may look different, but the general idea is the same: these companies encourage their employees to come together and organize themselves to explore new ideas, products and services – and as a result, greater innovation, increased productivity and improved employee satisfaction.
Related: 5 important stages of team building
Some companies give employees complete freedom to define their work; Others make it a freewheeling part of a more stable role. Tesla, 3M, Google, and Zappos, for example, allow employees to actively focus on their own ideas.
To see how this works, consider a rural Pennsylvania company called New Pig. The company’s workplace safety and spill containment products are used by more than 300,000 facilities worldwide, but its success does not begin with its products. It starts with a mission that attracts its staff.
The new pigs are looking for workers who share the reason for their existence – not just to contain leaks and leaks, but to think more broadly about how to protect the environment from gas, oil and other pollutants. These people come full of energy and ideas and they want to make a personal impact. The new pig uses that power: it gives employees the freedom to create new ideas and then hires colleagues to join them in teams supported by the company (but importantly, not controlled).
Ideas can come from customer feedback, technological advances, supplier or market changes – and these ideas don’t have to be entirely structured. According to Dan Silver, the company’s chief product officer, new ideas are first tested with some big questions: Can the idea solve a real problem? What is the size of the opportunity? Is the idea capable of creating new customers? And is this consistent with the core mission of the company?
Once an idea is conceptually created, it’s time to build a team. Someone from the product development department offered an idea. The concept is put into a product management system and then reviewed by management. Once approved, a team is formed with the most appropriate skill set and maximum availability. The team tends to set objectives and set a timeline. After that, the management provides broad-based organizational support but allows the team to work freely. After spending a certain amount of time and money and being evaluated by the team and others, it is decided to continue the work or abandon the idea.
New Pig believes that “failing quickly” is important for other concepts to save resources and learn from experience. This does not mean that the team is in a hurry to make an up-and-down decision, but everyone should remember that if the project looks shaky, it cannot be prolonged.
Related: 5 ways lean teams can work smarter and work more
Many ideas do not go beyond the initial concept stage. Others who show commitment are turned into minimally effective products and are tested (and then improved or killed) to capture customer feedback. Whatever it is, nothing is considered a failure. Each project contains lessons that are passed on to others so that they can avoid similar problems.
Of course, some ideas To do To be successful. That’s the decent thing to do, and it should end there. And that’s how New Pig created its PIG Umbrella-style roof leak diverter.
Some time ago, a new pig product development partner visited a customer with a leaky roof. The customer has placed a trash at the bottom to catch the water. However, in addition to being nasty, leaks and rubbish were in the middle of a walkway. The collaborator’s idea was to capture the source of the leak near the ceiling and redirect it to a safe, outdoor container with a hose. The idea was brought back to New Pig headquarters. A team is formed. Was tested. And, in the end, a product was rolled out.
How can you turn it off in your own organization? It’s not as easy as telling people to form their own team. It starts with rethinking the role of management.
It starts at the very top. Leaders must be clear about a company’s mission, be motivated to attract others with a similar mindset, and deeply believe that the best ideas – as well as the best improvements on old ideas – will come from employees. Emotionally protected leaders do not use their position to influence the actions of others; Rather, they relinquish authority to benefit the company as a whole.
A company that embraces self-governing teams has fewer directors. Management responsibilities still exist, of course – they need to manage their budgets and make sure the teams are meeting the timeline and working on the appropriate tasks. But these managers should think of themselves as advisors or coaches. There is little direct “management” in the traditional sense.
After that, the timeline and goals should be re-imagined. To strengthen a self-organized team, you must allow the group to think differently. It cannot focus on the company’s current plans; Instead, it should be left alone to think creatively. It should spend less time reporting its work and actually spend more time working on it. In short, teams should act like startups.
Related: 10 Easy Ways to Create a Collaborative, Successful Work Environment
Finally, reconsider the employees you hire. You don’t want people who are thinking about the title. Ideally, they are not even (primarily) inspired by money. The members of this team are excited about your mission and have a strong desire to be part of a “quick” work environment. As a result, they will create order out of chaos: they will improve in a light, fluid environment; They will be flexible in their interactions with larger organizations; And they will think entrepreneurially, with a sense of purpose that enables you to get the best out of them.
Employees are able to do much more than adhere to a narrow job description. By giving them the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities, you will be able to discover their full potential, raise social capital, build mutual trust and realize your true potential for innovation, keeping your company one step ahead of the competition.