“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.” – Georg C. Lichtenberg
We spend a lot of time internally, with clients, and on this blog talking about productivity and innovation. Sometimes we talk about them as though they’re two completely separate entities. But that isn’t the case. The biggest jumps in productivity that I’ve ever seen have come from leaders being innovative in ways and places people didn’t normally think about.
How did they do it? Here are three different approaches that I’ve seen have great results:
Don’t just do the same things differently – do different things. Sometimes we think we’re being innovative when we do something we’ve been doing for 20 years slightly differently than before. And certainly a little change is better than no change. But why aim so low? Is the thing you’ve been doing for 20 years worth doing at all? Is there something else you should be doing entirely? Maybe the process you think needs tweaking really needs scrapping. Don’t settle for something little when something big might be out there.
Ask yourself, “How could we address this in a way we’ve never done before?” Too often organizations think there are parts of a process that are untouchable, that when we want to be more productive we have to start with certain unchangeable facts. What if the facts aren’t unchangeable? What would happen if your people got together and told them they had to completely change how they do some fundamental part of their jobs. What kinds of ideas would they come up with? What kinds of discussions might you have?
Ask yourself, “What if (fill in the blank) wasn’t available?” Think about whatever it is you do as an organization. Ask yourself what you would do if specific people suddenly disappeared (don’t laugh, it happens – it’s called turnover). What would you do if a machine or an input or a supplier or a customer just wasn’t there? How would you function? What adjustments would you have to make? What would happen if you got your team together and asked them to come up with a plan of action in case some specific event occurred?
The point isn’t that every conversation you ever have needs to revolutionize your business. The point is that if you never have conversations without boundaries how can you move outside your current sphere of operations? When you remove barriers you’ll find better solutions that make your business more productive.
And productivity is just the beginning. Have those same conversations about everything you do. Have them about customers and products and marketing and people and pricing and so on and so on. How are you going to change your organization – and yourself?