Lately I’ve been geeking out heavily on Seth Godin’s book, “Free Prize Inside.” (This is a link to an excerpt of it, which I feel is a lot less lame than a link to the book’s Amazon.com listing.) I’ve been very taken with his idea that anyone in an organization is responsible for a company’s marketing – what they do effects the product’s outcome, and it’s benefits are what you sell it on.
What’s caused a bit of controversy among people I know is the logical conclusion of this idea: Anyone can innovate solutions for a product outside of their own mien. That is, if someone in production knows of a way to better design the product, they should propose this innovation – thereby stepping over the heads of the design department.
Now, it makes perfect sense that if someone in a company has an idea for doing the job better, they should try to make it happen. Since doing this sometimes means stepping on other people’s heads, it can also mark that someone as trouble to other departments. It can also mean the wrath of management, who are still accustomed to employees working within their own department’s fiefdom.
I can’t say I agree with the man in this video, that employees who are innovators should want to get fired. Everyone should strive to improve their company and it’s products whenever they can, but remember: Getting fired for innovation really means losing your regular income because you were too smart for your own good.
It makes sense to most anyone that finding a better way to do anything is good. But company culture is a tricky thing – and before any serious innovation starts, the people at the top have to be ready to accept it. Otherwise, innovative employees with good ideas could find themselves fired. This is bad for everyone, because the employee now has to find a job – and the company loses a smart employee, who will likely find work with a more forward-thinking company.
Perhaps the best place to start when you want to find new solutions is to get your managers and directors on board with the idea of innovation first? Or do you think it’s better to put out an idea full steam ahead, consequences me damned?