“We needed a different way to talk about innovation with our people. We wanted them to put creativity into practice and apply it to their everyday lives. How could we show them this was not only possible, but expected of them?” asks Barozzi

Gianpaolo Barozzi faced a problem. Employed by Cisco, a market leading company that produces some of the world’s most innovative technology products, he understood the business requirement to be forward thinking. Yet, as a senior director of HR, he felt his own function wasn’t as creative as it could be.

As I read this article in Changeboard the other day, I just had to smile. That’s because I am just so amazed at how the “newer” companies try out new ways to engage workers. Facebook did the same a few years back, the like button and facebook chat camem out of that “hackamonth” initiative.

Google also has a version of this, but I understand that it has been modified somewhat.

Creating the incubator throughout the organization

As companies look for new features and initiatives, something as simple as letting employees do their own thing could prove more valuable than the normal emphasis on innovation. What I like most about these initiatives are that they show that newer and younger leaders are so much more open to new ideas. This creates an environment within the organization where anything is possible.

And, this has a much greater impact than some leader using the word “innovate” in every communiqué with the staff.

There must be an environment to innovate. The word “incubator” comes to mind when I think of innovation. Creating an entrepreneurial environment is more than a physical structure; it involves creating an environment within that opens the minds to think of things differently and look for solutions.

Gardening and developing talent solutions

If we think in terms of gardening, we take soil and plants and create a base that will allow each one to flourish. However, this takes constant care, watering, weeding, pruning, etc., to build and transform that landscape into a fertile environment.

I know people that get excited about a new plant, and through neglect, the plant eventually dies. What happened? Well, if we do not care for something, it will eventually wither away.

Creating this kind of culture within an organization allows it to fully bloom so that when it is time to “harvest,” the bounty is full.  You cannot will this to happen — the environment must be created.

That is why it is going to take a new level of thinking to not only innovate but to unleash the power of the workforce. I remember a recent TV interview where the reporter asked me about the power of adding pool or ping pong tables in the workplace. I responded by asking him the following: “Do you think that a pool table will make up for a horrible work experience or a bad manager?”  No reply was needed.

However, there a lots of organizations that buy into these type of gimmicks. Last week, I was visiting an organization and noticed nap pods near the lobby. That’s different, I thought, but it will take more than nap pods to create an environment of innovation. Consider it a start on the journey and a small step towards workplace excellence.

Demographics will solve this if you let it

This demographical shift in our workplaces is going to have a seismic effect over the upcoming years. As our workforces skew younger, which means a younger mindset in leadership roles, you will see everything being questioned, not only the way that we work but how we get our jobs done.

I, for one, will applaud as I follow these new steps and consider how we approach the staid workplace, programs, policies and procedures that have been handled so differently for so long.

So the next time you are wracking your brain to come up with the idea that will save the day, the innovative solution to your problems, or just a better way to do something, put your efforts into fostering and promoting an “incubator” within your organization.

This means an incubator atmosphere where innovation thrives in every corner and in all departments. This is a lot more valuable when you unleash the power of the entire organization as opposed to the “anointed” one.

When you unleash the power of everyone, who knows where your next great idea will come from?