Common Sense – or Genius?

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Whenever you start pondering the “next big thing,” it’s easy to think the solution must be “out there” – and it is going to require a major (and often expensive) breakthrough. 

Maybe not.

The next big innovation for your company might be right under your nose. The question is – do you see it?

Are you too close to the action? Has the best solution become invisible right in front of your face? Odds are – it has.

One of my favorite corporate leadership books of all time is by Captain Michael Abrashoff titled “It’s Your Ship.” If you haven’t read this book – move it to the top of your list. In a nutshell, Captain Abrashoff takes over the lowest performing ship in the Navy – and overnight transforms it into a high-performing, record-setting, ground-breaking leader of the Navy. By genuinely caring about his people, empowering them, and creating the structure for them to be heard – he blows open the doors of engagement, creativity, and innovation.

My favorite story involves one sailor coming to him and asking why the ship does not have stainless steel bolts. Because of the rust, the lowest guys on the ship would spend much of their shore leave time painting the ship 2-3 times a year. Clearly there was a good reason why the ship didn’t have stainless steel bolts, but Captain Abrashoff couldn’t find one. So, without permission from above, he sent a team of sailors to all of the Home Depot’s in the area to snatch up their stainless steel nuts and bolts – and they replaced them all on the ship.

The result – ships only needed to be painted every few years – saving the Navy lots of money – and giving sailors more leave time. Every ship quickly followed suit.

So, why hadn’t this been done before?

A) No one bothered to ask the question – or were afraid to ask

B) Someone asked at one point but was met with the response, “Don’t know, but it’s not out job.”

C) It’s too simple and obvious – so there must be a good reason not to

Whatever the reason or reasons – innovation was under their noses the whole time – it just took someone in the right environment to have the courage and opportunity to bring it up.

Your business and team is no different. Is your environment empowering this kind of engagement and inquiry?

Are you doing things simply because “this is the way we have always done it?”

It might be time to take a step back and look for the genius right in front of your face. If you need help bringing this mindset into your workplace – give us a call!

 

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