Leadership that recognizes innovation is the responsibility of everyone that wants innovation to succeed needs to have strategy, processes, tools and techniques in place for that to happen, and must regularly review their effectiveness.
Innovation for growth requires leadership to invest with courage in proven processes and by placing trust in employees to respond meaningfully to opportunities for innovation. If you are tempted to make innovation an appendage or to graft it from outside then consider Tom Fehsenfeld’s experience.
“It’s the job of senior managers,” says Tom Fehsenfeld, president of Crystal Flash Energy, a fuel distribution company in Michigan, “to raise awareness of the need for change [innovation] and create a desire for change, but then you must make everyone in the company a participant, not a spectator.” When Tom was challenged to grow and diversify the business so as not to be caught in the commodity service trap, he hired from outside the company. “Everyone in the core business was busy keeping that going, so I hired individuals new to the company into a department of five people to focus on the future. They were charged to find compatible but different kinds of products and services to grow our business. This small team was like an anti-body. What we got was three years of misunderstandings—bad feelings and seriously disgruntled employees in our core business. What I finally figured out was that we needed buy-in from our employees to reinvent the future of the company. There are no short-cuts.”
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