Driving Innovation from Within
Earlier this year, I was selected to write some blogs around innovation and other topics that relate. When it comes to innovation, I can be a little wild and express some crazy ideas. Perhaps this blog is one of them. I can sometimes even second guess myself, thinking that something is too expensive or is the wrong solution. However, all solutions may be correct, and what seems expensive may be cheap in relation to the return. This is a warning to hang on as it could get a little crazy…
Innovation is all about being creative and looking at things differently. To me, it is key to being progressive. My strategy is to first identify bottlenecks that are likely hidden and then think of creative ways to fix them. There will always be an easy way, but does that really solve the problem? Will that make your client different than his neighbor down the road? Is it the most cost effective? How will it change the work environment? How can you be different, or make your clients different and in turn more successful?
Being innovative is a lot easier said than done. It’s not something to rush into, and sometimes it may involve consulting with others. It is important to be creative and approach things with an open mind and the willingness to get into an uncomfortable situation. One of the ways that I think that this can be done on a dairy, or any job for that matter, is having employees perform different jobs/tasks or shadow other employees throughout the day. For example, have a milker or herdsman shadow a feeder or vice versa. This will likely lead to questions and some answers might be “I don’t know why I do that”.
Those “I don’t know why I do that’s are important. They can either be a teaching moment or an area for improvement. Maybe the person that knows nothing or very little about the task/job just identified a bottleneck. Maybe they have a suggestion about how to do something different. Ensuring them that it is ok to express their thoughts is important. There may not be an immediate solution, but if ideas aren’t expressed, we will never know.
Reaching out to multiple experts and putting together focus groups to discuss things is sometimes important. There may be multiple ways to solve a problem but talking through it may develop a creative solution. Never take the first answer or solution as the winner. Continue to discuss with others; more discussion often leads to more innovation.
I’ll end with a story. As a kid I remember asking my grandpa about fuel dripping down onto an engine block of an old tractor. The fuel was coming from a shut off value that would drip to relive pressure after being shut off. My grandpa thought about this and the next time I came into the barn he had developed a small drip pan to deflect that fuel away from the engine block so that it wouldn’t damage the paint. I knew nothing about engines/manufacturing at that point, but I asked a question that challenged him to think and be innovative.
Don’t be afraid to ask what may feel like a dumb question. Challenge yourself, your peers, and or your employees to do different things and bring new ideas forward. Look for innovation from within your team!