During my time at On Purpose I’ve found myself being part of the Innovation team at two very different organisations. The first one, a $1bn publicly-listed carpet tile manufacturer with a strong sustainability mission, Interface, focusing its innovation efforts on finding the next big thing in materials, manufacturing processes and service delivery. The second one, one of the most well-known charities in the UK, Comic Relief. At Comic Relief, I have been concentrating on finding innovative ways to raise revenues on a 365 basis. What these two organisations do have in common is that they’ve both actively turned to their own staff to come up with the game-changing ideas that will help them achieve their aims.
Innovation at Interface was recently rebranded as Co-Innovation, i.e. a process of innovating together across different levels within the company. Staff got a glimpse of what this new process will involve when they were asked to contribute with their own ideas to an internal challenge website. This exercise produced 212 brilliant ideas, coming from colleagues working across all functions and across 4 different locations around the globe. The ideas with the most votes were presented to senior management and were then fed into the company’s strategic planning for the next 15 years.
Comic Relief is following the example of many firms in the commercial world by experimenting with setting up its very own Innovation Lab, aptly named “The Exploralaboratorium”. It’s collaborating with Sidekick Studios, a digital innovation agency, to develop new, agile ways of creating digital products that can bring in money all year round. For this, it is relying on its own staff to come up with ideas, work on taking them to the next level and become ultimate owners of these products.
The term ‘innovation’ has always scared me. For me, being ‘innovative’ was always something reserved for the wizz kids of my generation, those comfortable with the unknown, ready to take on massive risks to see their elusive ideas come to life. But what my experience in the examples above has shown me is that there is a vast amount of creative ideas waiting to be unleashed if only the right processes are in place to help this internal creative flurry come to light. These creative geniuses live amongst us and are more often than not to be found simply by looking in the mirror.
So I would urge other organisations, whether for-profit, non-profit or somewhere in between to take a leap of faith, trust their own staff to know what is best for them and help innovation come to life from within.