The Secret Sauce in Innovation?

The naysayers, the clairvoyants, the body politic, your mother are amongst the crowd sharing their views. They have well-articulated positions on some of the most inane topics, and continue to flex their cerebral might like a body-builder displays their ripped saran-wrapped muscles.

The 21st century has provided the pontificator with a new platform, extending beyond the observable audience to a crowd of unprecedented proportions. According to Scott Galloway, Clinical Professor of Marketing, NYU Stern, “Facebook has relationships with 2.4 billion users. The Roman Catholic Church 1.2 billion. Facebook has more relationships on the planet than God.”

People are out there sharing and collaborating.  We still rely on human beings to generate new ideas and innovations.  For some perplexing reason not enough organizations have prioritized and integrated employee sharing and innovation.  In fact, if you stop for a moment and think about it, you quickly realize that the smartest people work for someone else.  The simple trick with innovation is to tap into these people, we call employees, while they are being employed.

Okay, it may not be as simple as I have suggested as according to Gallop Research less than 25% of employees are actually ‘engaged’ in the workforce. Logic tells me the first step in engagement is to engage. We know humans are social creatures and willing to share, so why aren’t organizations tapping into their people and enabling ongoing and open collaboration?

Firms know that innovation and market adaption are essential for survival.  Yet ‘ideation’ is stuck in some hierarchical morass of the 20th century.   Ideation knows no hierarchal boundary nor is it constrained by social status.  In this prescient 2005 talk, Clay Shirky shows how closed groups and companies will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning. Check out his classic Ted Talk  http://www.ted.com/talks/clay_shirky_on_institutions_versus_collaboration?language=en

As Shirky says, “If it’s really a revolution it doesn’t take us from point A to point B, it takes us from Point A to chaos.”  Perhaps this is where the fear comes from?  When we open up new and transparent channels of communication do we lose institutional control?  I’m no ‘futurist’, but I can’t help but believe that those firms working closely with staff are much more likely to survive…thanks to their employee’s innovative ideas!

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