Every week a new book hits the shelves touting a "new" idea in management and "new" wisdom for business. For business as well as human nature, nothing is new under the sun.

True innovation revolves around where your focus lies, how unique your solutions to customers are, and how you define, promote and deliver the value you have to offer.
 
One of the best places to begin your accelerated growth fueled by innovation efforts is by listing and prioritizing your top constraints. Ask questions like:


  • Where are our greatest untapped sales growth potentials, either existing or specific new customers or both?
  • What do we need to improve to win more business?
  • What are the top risk factors existing in our business in need of improvement?
With that said, one of the simplest ways to ask your team about innovation opportunities is to just ask this one simple question: What are this company's biggest problems that hinder our growth?
 
Be ready for the answers because often times the top constraints to growing a business lie in its culture, talent management and talent engagement.
 
Talent engagement represents the extent to which the workforce identifies with the company, is committed to it and provides discretionary effort so that it can be successful. Engagement is a key leading indicator for high performance workplaces, improved employee productivity and subsequent turnover.
 
Often while top management is looking out the window into the marketplace to find the levers of growth, the linchpin to growth may be inside the heart of the organization — your people.
 
Innovation efforts should be holistic and involve improvements in how you serve your internal customer as much as how you might improve your products and services to your external customer.
 
If you are committed to growing the company through accelerating your efforts in innovation, you must be willing to focus on the people within your company and work on ways at getting and keeping more of your internal customers. And no one has more impact on the talent and employee engagement of a company than the top echelon leader. As long as he or she is humble, innovation can begin. "Humility is the sire of all virtue" especially creativity.
 
An often ignored area frequently in need of improvement is the culture. Often a company culture is set by the attitudes and character of the top leader. The strengths in a leader's character can sometimes be the flip side of their weaknesses. One who is patient and a great listener may be slow to make a decision, and hard-charging visionaries can often be poor listeners who are not as focused on the people as needed. These weaknesses tend to trickle down into the behaviors of the team and ultimately are built into the culture weaknesses that can become abrasive to both customer and employees.
 
When the answers to the "biggest problems" question are things like "no one around here appreciates ..." or "the company tends to tolerate (fill in a negative term)," then you know you have got to work on fostering a cultural improvement effort.
 
Three steps to improving your culture are:

  • Ask your team for ideas around, "What would make this company a better place to work?" or "What would make you more excited about coming to work?"
  • Put in place a character recognition program to recognize people for good character qualities.
  • Conduct a value clarification process — which we'll write more about next month!