Innovation doesn't just happen in a scientific or workshop setting. More often it happens in conference rooms, in cubicles, during Zoom meetings, over coffee, next to the water cooler or while eating a day-old ham sandwich.
It takes place from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, in an offhand comment that creates a spark. A spark that lights a whole department up, that travels from one meeting to the next looking for support and suggestions. Then, it gives birth to a revolutionary idea that undergoes countless tests before being introduced to the public.
Innovation is the lifeblood of a successful business. There are several reasons why your tradesmen/women can be an engine to create innovation. Here are five:
They work as a team
Quite possibly the most important driver for innovation is when employees see the advantage of working together as a team because they understand each other and share the same goals.
When management shows they value teamwork and are committed to building it, there is a corresponding increase in communication, cooperation and focus. That opens the workforce up to creativity, being willing to think, "What if…," and openly talking about their innovative ideas or ways to make things better.
The U.S. labor force is diverse, more today than ever before, and that is both an innovative and competitive advantage. When your workforce is diverse, there are many different perspectives represented. No two people look at products or services in exactly the same way, just as they have different life experiences.
These differences can lead to a wide range of ideas and innovations being developed, and they will also play a significant role in the refining process when employees are encouraged to participate.
They are in alignment
Domestic tradesmen/women are better able to align with company values, vision and goals. Because they are local and not removed from the corporation, employee engagement increases and helps give them a better understanding of company goals. When management hires people who hold similar values and commitment, they will align with the company's vision and goals much more quickly. That alignment is invaluable when a company is focused on being innovative and anticipating what it can do or make next.
Just as a domestic labor force is better able to align with the company vision and believe in the company's purpose, it also leads to better communication. Employees are more willing to communicate not only with each other but also with management. There is less fear and more attitude of "in it to win it," to pull together, to be the best. That doesn't happen without great communication.
Faster, in almost every way
When tradesmen/women are working together as a team, they are also more efficient. This applies to every area of a business -- from staying on top of sourcing raw materials to training, production, turnaround times and shipping. This leads to satisfied customers, great reviews and increased revenue.
Some of the greatest innovations came out of a need for a service or product to solve a problem. Why shouldn't that need or problem turn into your next innovative product or service? Give your tradesmen/women time and freedom to be creative and you'll reap the rewards.
• Melissa Kehl is president of Rieke Office Interiors in Elgin.