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Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Right Employees for Innovation

Dr. Min Basadur has studied corporate innovation since his days at Procter and Gamble. He has identified eight different innovation profiles that tell where in the innovation cycle an individual is likely to perform best.

According to Dr. Basadur, workers are naturally suited for one or two of the four steps in the innovation cycle. I have renamed his steps thus: Inquire, Invent, Improve and Implement. He developed a psychometric test, available through The Innovation Workgroup, to determine a person’s innovation profile. An employee may score high in only one step or may be strong in two adjacent steps, such as Implementation and Inquiry or Inquiry and Invention, but never in two opposite steps such as Inquiry and Improvement.

An Inquirer observes all the time. She will notice problems and opportunities where innovation can make a positive difference. Deploy an Inquirer in research.

An Inventor is an idea person. Often, others will get tired of the endless stream of new ideas this person can conceive. Make sure to get Inventors on your brainstorming panel.

An Improver is imaginative and also practical. Starting from another person’s wild idea or rough sketch, an Improver will be able to engineer a system or device that is functional, efficient, and has the right features to satisfy end users. Put this person in the lab or design studio.

An Implementer may not appear to be innovative, but he is essential just like the other three profiles. He may not offer many new ideas, but he will work with great attention to detail to make sure that any innovation becomes a success for the company.

Assign the right people to the right innovation activities, and you will increase the output of your innovation team.

Related reading: How Babak Forutanpour Teaches Problem-Solving

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Innovation Risks and Rewards

When it comes to imagination, people can be categorized as either dreamers or realists. Most managers, including many who studied engineering, are realists. I sometimes joke that engineers are always quick to tell you what won’t work.

On the other side are the dreamers. They have active imaginations, and they often think of unbelievably big and profitable solutions. The only problem is that their ideas tend to be foolish and unrealistic at worst, and risky at best.

The challenge for a company is to balance between the two tendencies. Too much risk is dangerous. An approach that is too conservative puts a low ceiling on growth potential. As my colleague, Col. Alok Asthana, likes to say, “If you turn your company over to the dreamers, you will go bankrupt quickly. If you turn your company over to the realists, you will go bankrupt very slowly.”

Your employees understand your attitude toward innovation and risk, even if you have never told them explicitly or made it into a policy. Sadly, employees at most organizations – 80% of US corporations according to a recent Accenture survey – say that their managers do not support entrepreneurial activity.

If you want your company to grow faster than the competition, build a culture that supports and encourages your dreamers to experiment and innovate.

Related reading: Stop Frustrating Your Innovators

 
 

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