Here’s an interesting question all leaders, including myself, should be asking, “When we set goals for our company and employees, do we make them “realistic” or “unrealistic” to achieve?” If you’re like us, we tend to set them to be realistic with the mindset that people will strive to achieve something they see is “within reach” of achieving. But is this the right approach for innovation?
Running a company has all kinds of moving parts – but they are all moving at the same time, or so it seems. Our goal as leaders is to keep all the moving parts moving…basically. We have teams to help keep all the employees moving forward in the direction we set and put specific goals in place for them to achieve. But here is the big question, “What happens when they achieve the goal, do they stop and coast or get more creative and figure out new ways of doing things?” I vote that they are content and celebrate their victory (and rightfully so) of meeting or just exceeding their goal.
But when it comes to innovation, if we knew what the specific goal was, we could apply the same principles. We don’t. What we know is we want to make things better, create a more cost effective solution, develop an easier way for customers to work with us, come up with a new product/service, etc. But we don’t know what that looks like, that’s why these things are “innovative”. I want to throw out a different notion to consider – set unachievable and unattainable goals when it comes to innovation.
For example, if someone wanted to change the manufacturing process to improve it by 10% over the next year, that is attainable and would lead to some “improvements” to the “existing” process. But what if there was an entirely new process which could improve it 50%? This would probably not be discovered by smaller improvements along the way. While I completely agree we should constantly be working towards the 10% increase, why not have a small group thinking about the 50% as well? This could create a completely new way to “re-engineer” it – start with a blank sheet of paper and put down a bunch of “what if’s” that don’t exist today. It might not happen for the next few years, but if it did, you immediately become the leader…and for a while into the future. And I bet we would come up with a few more ideas of how to capture the 10% improvements along the way a well.
This is a concept we are thinking about ourselves – it isn’t easy and it is hard to get your head around since it is 180 degrees from the way we normally think…kind of like innovation. What do you think? Does this make sense to you as a business leader? Would love to hear your thoughts and comments with one caveat – you can’t just “shoot at it” you have to offer something constructive, this is how we can all benefit from your wisdom…