The secret of grassroots innovation

Innovation is currently a hot topic for business.
Many technology-based tactical productivity aids over the past decade have been touted as innovation – but none have been the key to a sustained quantum leap in business performance.

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 | By Glyn Blaize

Innovation is currently a hot topic for business. Many technology-based tactical productivity aids over the past decade have been touted as innovation – but none have been the key to a sustained quantum leap in business performance.

While the ‘innovation imperative’ doesn’t cause too much debate – too few SME recruiters know what or how to go about implementing doing anything that truly resembles innovation or how to bake innovation into the DNA of their business.

This is particularly thematic with recruitment businesses launched in the tradition of command-and-control approaches and top-down leadership as the only known and accepted model.

If we look to the disruption and innovation that are synonymous with Generation Z there is a clear cultural difference of collaboration, technology reliance, the notion of ‘entrepreneurship’ and mobile first visual-based interaction.

So is ‘grassroots innovation’ this year’s fad? Or does it really bear fruit? Our experience is, grassroots innovation is an attainable management science, which has enabled many recruitment companies to break through those invisible barriers that forced their businesses to plateau after enjoying an initial period of growth.

Yet organisations that have flatlined for years can kick-start and outperform their competitors when they empower all staff to take greater control and responsibility to tackle the hidden bottlenecks that hold them back. This is especially powerful when coupled with a method to sustainably change aspects of company culture that currently prevents the business from scaling further. The key is to understand that grassroots innovation happens where there is scarcity, hardship and a lack of resources. Usually, this occurs more at the coalface. 

Grassroots innovation when embraced and celebrated not only drives top-line growth, but proves itself to be the antidote to the perennial problem of staff attrition as a by-product of building a more engaged, collaborative and supportive workforce. Unleash the ideas and talents of the most creative and innovative players in your company to ensure your business’s future success by following the following tips. 

Five ways to harness innovators

1 Adapt Command & Control approach – Consciously look for both top-down and bottom-up ideas. Intentionally involve different demographics in idea generation and problem solving, include your wider supply chain in problem solving and innovation.

2 Empower Gen Z through excellent technology – Millennials, who grew up with iPads and Xboxes, disengage when put in front of CRMs [customer relationship management systems] and other technology that isn’t naturally intuitive. The notion of being trained to use a system is somewhat alien and our research shows that legacy technology is an inhibitor to fostering innovation from millennials.

3 Use immersive visual or social-based innovation culture change tools – Great results occur by shifting culture through companies using online suggestion boxes, either on their intranets or company social channels. Rewarding or celebrating every idea and creating a digital forum for people to ‘like’ or comment on ideas creates a virtuous circle of a free-flowing grassroots innovation with its own community-based filtering system.

4 Commit to collaboration – Often collaboration is limited to external collaboration at industry events or idea-sharing roundtables. Transpose this to within your organisation; hold internal roundtables, creating an environment where all can contribute; take cues from IT Hackathons.

5 Continuous feedback – Annual reviews are a dying art form. Adopt systems that embed continuous improvement into your culture. Become agile so you can react and adapt to changing workforce and markets. 

Glyn Blaize is managing director of management consultancy Addocura

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