Innovation is a word that’s been heard on the lips of more CEOs, read in more broadsheet papers, and detailed in more business magazines in the last ten months than ever before. It’s well regarded that those businesses that fail to innovate risk death; consider the sad fates of longstanding companies like Woolworths, Polaroid, Blockbuster, and Borders over the last ten years. But how, as an individual, can you incorporate innovation and creative thinking into your everyday working life, all while keeping up with the already manic pace of modern business?
Innovation has become a bit of a business buzzword. Every CEO and CIO worth their salt wants to be seen to be on the forefront, bringing new products and services to a market. However, it doesn’t always go to plan, and rushing in to things head first without the proper due diligence can land a company in hot water.
The term is widely accepted to have been coined by Wired magazine in 2006, in an article analysing how businesses were beginning to outsource tasks, usually handled by an individual to a larger number of people, in the expectation it would gain faster results for a cheaper price. Since then, business use of crowdsourcing techniques has become more established. Crowdfunding, for example, has become a common way of raising funds, while Spigit Engage customers provide a great example of how businesses are applying crowdsourcing to the innovation process. However, such is the potential and power of ‘the crowd’, just how far can crowdsourcing be taken – not just in business, but society as a whole?
Microsoft recently announced it would cut thousands of middle management jobs to ease the flow of information and decision making, ‘no longer respecting tradition but only innovation’. This move illustrates how large corporations are starting to realise that by engaging a huge swathe of the workforce, they can harness this collective innovation brainpower to solve challenges and find the next ‘big idea’. Crowd-sourced creativity has gained serious traction; even the NHS has challenged its workforce to find novel ways of improving patients’ experiences.
Basically, a scientific paper by Richard Daft*, since cited over 1000 times, found organisational innovations trickle simultaneously upward and downward.
In a study of the way schools operate which concluded in 1972, where there are both teachers (the do-ers) and administrators (the managers), he found:
- For delivered innovations about teaching, 77% came from teachers, whilst only 16% came from administrators.
- For delivered innovations about school management, 75% came from administrators, whilst 16% came from teachers.
And for those astute enough to pick up the missing percentage point, those were accounted for by “collaborators”, a term applied to anyone who introduced something new that was neither a teacher nor and administrator.