You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2008.

Read Part One 

The second principle of innovation is that it needs a system. Not just any system. In fact, often the conventional systems that an organization creates and sustains contraindicates innovation. For example, formal and rigid systems designed by management and handed down to workers may very well have their rationale, but often the exclusion of collaborative development of systems limits, if not kills, innovation.

Innovation often resides in informal systems or channels. These “informal channels are untidy and inefficient, yet innovation is always associated with them.”

If there is only one way for an idea to be heard in an organization, typically through some sort of heirarchial channel, the person with all the power becomes a gatekeeper or a bottleneck that chokes creative expression. As well, it is unrealistic and too much to ask that one person, or even a few, have the knowledge, insight, and moxie on their own to adequately judge all innovative ideas that may come their way.

It is a fine line for leadership to walk. Clearly there are decisions to make and they can’t all be made by everyone. But while decisions about an organization’s future necessarily rest with leadership, the processes behind decisions are what feed the organization with options, opportunities, and new and different ways of engaging customers or stakeholders.

While innovation does require systems to thrive, those systems require a culture that fuels inquiry, dialog, free thinking, and ego management. If the culture and climate are right, then the third principle becomes possible and understandable. More on that next time.

 

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WEDU will premiere their new documentary The Uninsured:  Help and Hope, on Thursday, May 22nd at 9:00 p.m. 

The one-hour program looks at the struggles of everyday residents on the west coast of Florida caught in the middle of America’s health insurance crisis.  A health insurance crisis that has created an uninsured crisis devastating lives, families, and our economy.   

Fortunately, the Tampa Bay area is not without compassionate hands of help and because of this, thousands of people, with no place else to turn, have gained much needed access to quality medical care.  Please tune in to meet some of the local organizations and volunteers, including doctors, nurses and concerned citizens, who are making a difference right here in our own community.

WEDU Official Web Site: www.wedu.org

I have been thinking about innovation. It’s a word we all use and while we intuit its meaning, it is also a word that can have an elusive definition. Check a dictionary (I used dictionary.com) and the definition is not crystal clear, at least to me: “something new or different introduced.” 

When most of us think of innovation or of being innovative, we attach value to the words. We naturally think innovations should be good things, not just anything “new.” We believe innovation should improve quality or speed things up or save money, make life easier, and other stuff like that.

Some writers talk about the process of innovation and in that type of discussion, give shape to what the term means. So, not really a definition, but rather a roadmap toward innovative solutions and, I believe, the development of an organizational culture that will result in new ideas and adjustments to our businesses that add value.

The Practice of Leadership  blog reports on five principles of innovation as developed by the Center for Creative Leadership. Here is an overview of what the blog tells us.

Innovation begins with people. Without the minds, creativity, and problem solving skills of people – typically people working together – innovation will not take place. The first principle the writers mention is that Innovation begins when people convert problems to ideas. This involves people making inquiries, analyzing things, paying attention to obstacles as well as aspirations. “The process of innovation is indebted to the trouble that comes about when we are surrounded by that which is not solved, not smooth and not simple.” As well, innovation requires a culture and climate “that encourages inquiry and welcomes problems.”

This means that staff must feel free to pose the difficult question, offer points of view that might be seen as unconventional or, at times, out in left field. People must feel free and safe to risk going against the grain. An organization that is suspicious of differences or that automatically chooses tradition over challenging the norm will be hard pressed to instill an innovative spirit among its people.

This is not to say that tradition and convention are not to be valued. In every organization there are habits and patterns, systems and processes, and protocols and techniques that should be understood before one is quick to change them. Valuing how we do things, however, does not make how we do things sacrosanct.

If an organization’s leadership is not able to move with eyes open and accept change as not only what happens to us, but more so what we must engage in to be continually successful and valued, the organization will, at best, just plod along.

Think for a moment about the Swiss who for so many years were the kingpins of watch making. Swiss watches were synonymous with quality. There was prestige associated with owning such a time piece. The Swiss were also known for being innovative, but they became complacent and unable to break out of their paradigm of what a watch was.

Did you know that the Swiss invented the digital watch? They even showcased their invention at a convention, but they were so sure their idea was not marketable, they did not bother to patent it. It was the Japanese who saw the innovation, recognized the marketability of this fresh, exciting idea of what a watch was.

The result was that in a very short time, digital time pieces took over the market place, with the Japanese crowned as the new kingpin. The Swiss were reduced to being a minor player for many years. Their own innovation lost to their inability to recognize how their bright minds could revolutionize watches.

This suggests that innovation is only truly innovation when it moves beyond an idea to something that exists and is used. In other words, innovative minds will generate ideas, often out of the box ideas, but not all ideas will come to fruition, not all ideas will become innovations. It also suggests that the innovative process somehow must result in a paradigm shift. For the Swiss, they were so locked in to what a watch is, they could not see what a watch could be.

Stay tuned for Part Two which will cover the second principle of innovation which is: “Innovation needs a system.”

Veterans, teens, an artist, and a pro football player are among the thirteen individuals or groups to receive United Way of Tampa Bay’s Volunteer of the Year awards for their commitment and volunteer efforts in the community. The awards were presented Tuesday, April 29 during the annual awards luncheon at the Tampa Doubletree hotel. The Volunteer of the Year Golden Achievement Award was presented to Operation Helping Hand. Nominated by James A. Haley VA Hospital, the Golden Achievement award is selected by the judges with the highest point score.

Thousands of decorated men and women in our Armed Forces have returned home from Afghanistan and Iraq severely injured, requiring extensive medical care and rehabilitation. Many combat wounded warriors are recovering at James A. Haley VA Hospital.

While the wounded recover from multiple traumatic injuries and undergo intense rehabilitation, their families join them, playing an important role in their recovery process. Many leave jobs and family to stay at their loved ones’ bedside. Their presence helps improve the morale and aids in the recovery of the service members. Traveling from all over the country, military families must provide for themselves while staying in Tampa. This can be an incredible financial strain on a family.

Six years ago, a group of military officers in Tampa had the foresight to form Operation Helping Hand. Their mission: lend support to the family members of hospitalized military. Members of Operation Helping Hand, through their community contacts and fundraising, provide rental cars, bus and taxi fare, cell phones and phone cards, gasoline coupons, amusement and entertainment tickets, and restaurant and grocery cards to the military families. New patients are welcomed with a backpack filled with hundreds of dollars of gifts and gift cards.

“It’s worth seeing the look on the faces of the wounded and their family,” said Robert Silah, chairman of Operation Helping Hand. “They all come in with such low morale. I’m so glad our committee of 20 can help.”

The generosity of Operation Helping Hand is vital to the patients’ recovery and well-being. While patients and their family struggle through complex health issues and rehabilitation, Operation Helping Hand is there to help lessen the financial and emotional burden. They are the champions to enhance the quality of care for those who have sacrificed their lives for our country.

During National Volunteer Week, United Way of Tampa Bay annually recognizes and thanks volunteers who are dedicated to help children, teens, parents, animals, veterans, the sick and the disabled. Eighty-three volunteers were nominated by dozens of agencies and organizations across Tampa Bay.

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