Thinking : Innovation, organisations

The Innovative Organisation

  • Innovation is a vital component for the survival of many companies.
  • Innovation should start with senior staff, who should take ownership of problems.
  • All staff should be involved in the culture of innovation.
  • Changes in business culture such as the elimination of blame can take a long time. Such changes need to be implemented from the top down.
  • In many companies, the natural response to problems is to find out who was responsible so that blame and subsequent punishment can be organised. This sort of culture usually leads to the suppression of ideas and individual or group flare. Changing a culture of blame is a long term commitment.
  • Organisations can often be affected by national or international regulations. These can affect the need to innovate.

Do you believe that opening doors to the ideas of other companies is of value?

"What I am always very keen to do is to learn of the strategic framework for the future both technology and markets that others are identifying share them with our own people and say ‘How does that tie in?’ , ‘Do their perceptions share with ours?’ Because we all benefit from hearing from other people telling us about the world now and in the future, and trying to relate it to ourselves."

Mike Lawton - Director (Retired), TDS CAD Graphics

Can you identify any particular factors that would help support innovation within a company?

"I think a key factor for a small company is having just about everybody in it aware of the company’s need to make progress, aware of the rate of obsolescence in technology which demands new products on ever tighter timescales. So I think a general factor is people knowing that no-one owes a living and we have to be creative to thrive and I think perhaps other factors are to encourage those people with the professional skills to do things like pattern searches, attend conferences, attend seminars very much with an idea of networking in order to have the right mindset for innovation."

Mike Lawton - Director (Retired), TDS CAD Graphics

Do you believe that innovation can truly be managed?

"I’m not totally sure that we can manage it in the sense of a manual of how to do it. What I am sure of is that you can do a number of actions and plans and communications sessions which are consciously intended to create a climate of innovation to which others will then contribute."

Mike Lawton - Director (Retired), TDS CAD Graphics

"It’s about management behaviour. It’s about what you say, it’s about how you act and as with all of these values it’s about how you change over time. You don’t change from the previous animal that you were overnight but you got to be constantly saying to yourself ‘Have I moved out of that box, am I 30% more into the other box’, and gradually you do look to demonstrate that you don’t act as you did maybe 10 years ago as often and you’ll be around to talk to people, to encourage them to try things differently and react professionally and in a more modern way when issues do go out of control. If your first instinct when somebody tells you that we scrapped something in the machine shop is ‘Who is he and is he still working here?’ then it’s not conducive to an innovative environment. So we have to challenge that approach. Obviously you’ve got to be careful with that approach so it doesn’t take you into a complacent couldn’t care less issue around your quality targets. But has to be one that gives freedom to people to try new ideas and to be comfortable and confident that they’ll get support when they do."

Neil McKay - Operations Director Aerostructures, British Aerospace