Is your “Good Idea Machine” ready for what’s coming?

Many leaders are observing that the move of offices to remote work has been remarkably smooth, with little to no impact on productivity. It is why many leaders are not in a hurry to take any risks about the move back to the office. But is our few months’ worth of experience telling the whole story?

An argument can be made (and one senior leader highlighted his concern about it to me this week) that the experience to date may be based on previous momentum. Good teams might be working well today because they worked well together in the past on existing processes. What happens as team dynamics change and they start to operate in new environments where old paradigms don’t hold as much importance and intracompany networks may see some deterioration?

For that reason, I think it is more important than ever to keep our “Good Idea Machines” in good condition. For what future does an organization have without the means to adapt and improve in new environments?
As shown in the picture below, a “Good Idea Machine” is composed of people giving inputs, supervisors screening in ideas, leaders selecting ideas to pursue, and doers driving to execution. Weakness in any of these areas will cause loss of the new ideas required to keep organizations at the top of their game.

Consider and assess where you think your organization or team is today on a scale of 1-5:

  1. “Dead in the water” (no recent ideas generated and nothing significant executing recently)
  2. “Fits and starts” (new ideas generated periodically and some execution of worthwhile initiatives)
  3. “Gaining traction” (new ideas consistently flowing with results seen from good execution discipline)
  4. “Significant impact” (high volume of novel ideas from across the organization with results that senior leaders and customers have noticed)
  5. “Making waves” (high volume of high impact initiatives executed across the organization that are noted by key stakeholders and have gotten on the radar of competitors)

Where did you rate yourself?
If you rated your team as a 1 or 2, start to diagnose where the breaks in the chain may be occurring. Is it in low volume of ideas from the team? Supervisors that are not adept at helping people develop ideas? Are leaders taking definitive steps to sponsor ideas and put some skin in the game. Is there discipline and bandwidth dedicated to getting initiatives to the finish line?

If you rated your team a 3, focus on ways to improve volume and impact of ideas.

If you rated your team a 4 or 5, what plans do you have in place to maintain the current dynamics?

It is likely that remote work will be a success in terms of doing the work of today. The risk is that organizations and teams may lose the key elements that keep the organization healthy into the near future. Be mindful to take steps today to keep your “machine” in good shape for the long haul.

PS If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my video on the Three Reasons Innovation Efforts Fail—and note that the three reasons can affect OTHER AREAS we want to improve too!
PPS …the visual comes from the booklet Ridiculously Innovative: Generate and Apply More Ideas Faster To Grow Your Business. Just message me if you want an e-copy and I will email it to you.