Spreading Ideas Across Your Organization
How do you spread good ideas across your organization?
My fellow blogger Jon Miller wrote a great post on Yokoten, or lateral deployment, a couple months ago. It’s a great post, both because of it’s content but also because of it’s importance.
How much is an idea worth to your organization? It depends a great deal on how widely it is utilized. If you figured out a better way for a team to coordinate and collaborate, that’s great for 1 team. But if it can be spread across all the teams in your organization, now you’re on to something.
Horizontal deployment (the meaning of yokoten) is about both process and mindset. While Jon covered some of the culture, I want to talk a bit about the leadership and mindset that has to enable such a process.
Put simply, leaders must create a supply and demand for horizontal sharing of ideas within the organization.
What makes this tricky is that both must be done at the same time. If you push people into supplying ideas but there is no demand for it, interest in sustaining will quickly die off. And if there is a demand but no supply, frustration will grow and people will turn to their old ways.
Leaders must create the recognition and feedback the drives behaviors on both ends. While I’ve writing about it in a 2009 article titled NIH (for Not Invented Here), here’s examples of driving supply and demand for horizontal sharing.
Our first example is an organization with many distributed P&L centers. It was great at generating innovations but struggling to get them picked up across the organization. Each Monday morning the CEO called several different general managers, eventually talking with all of them. Early on, the CEO heard a great deal of bragging about innovations in both product and process, but it was all localized.
Then the CEO changed focus and began asking â€œWhat ideas have you learned about and adopted from other sites in the company?â€ This question brought new attention to the concept of adopting ideas from other sites, and put NIH on the back burner. General managers who tried to fake their way through answering that question learned very quickly that NIH was no longer an acceptable way to run their businesses. Human behavior will always default to NIH if left unchecked, of course, but the general managers were put on notice that they were responsible for overcoming it.
In our second example, a vice president in another organization focused on people who just sat on their ideas without pushing on boundaries and taking their ideas to other sites. In operations reviews, he stopped anyone bragging about a great idea that had been implemented by asking â€œWould this apply elsewhere?â€ The individual typically listed other sites where it might apply, and the VP would retort, â€œOn a scale of 100, you get a 10. When you get the idea implemented in those other areas, then you get 100.â€ His message was crystal clear. An idea itself is worthless. An idea implemented is valuable. And thatâ€™s the work we pay you for. NIH is not a valid philosophy.
What have you done on your organization to support, enable, and even drive the horizontal deployment of ideas and innovations?