Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 1 ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 1

Innovation is often thought of as "edge activity," something that happens on the margins and eventually breaks mainstream. Not necessarily. Some of the largest corporations in America put innovation at the center of their business. Whirlpool has an "innovation pipeline" at the core of its operations. What would creating an innovation pipeline mean for congregations? Here is part 1 of 3 of some thoughts on innovation and congregation.

Innovation at the Center

I found an interesting article on Forbes.com about Nancy Snyder, a leader in stimulating innovation at Whirpool. Look around your house and it's likely you have more than a few Whirlpool products -- it's the world's largest manufacturer of household appliances.

For Snyder and her colleagues, innovation is not an "extra" but a core competency to be developed in their organization.

From the article:
Under Nancy's leadership, Whirlpool began a bold initiative in 1999 to greatly increase the new ideas emerging within the company and change where they came from and how they were implemented.

In other words, her team's goal was nothing less than embedding, as she put it, innovation as part of the core of the company's operations.

Creating an Innovation Pipeline

What is key to making innovation central at Whirlpool? From my reading of the article, it lies in creating an "innovation pipeline" which includes:
  • InnovationImage via Wikipediaenrolling every salaried employee in a business innovation course,
  • tying management's long-term bonuses to its innovativeness,
  • building an innovation Intranet portal that would offer everyone in the company a common forum for learning principles of innovation,
  • keeping abreast of recent research,
  • tracking the progress of ideas from concept toward realization, and
  • volunteering to work on one another's projects.
A team suggesting an innovation has to prove that the idea or concept it was championing met three criteria:
  1. It had to bring a benefit to the customer,
  2. it had to create a competitive advantage and
  3. it needed to return value to our shareholders.

Whirlpool now has a team of about 1,100 innovation mentors, what they call "I-Mentors." They volunteer to facilitate the innovation cycle throughout the company.

Resources from the Whirlpool Innovation Gurus

Snyder is co-author of two books on innovation:

Unleashing Innovation: How Whirlpool Transformed an Industry

Strategic Innovation: Embedding Innovation as a Core Competency in Your Organization

The article is at Forbes.com and includes an interview with Nancy Snyder.

Stay Tuned for Parts 2 & 3 in the Series

Tomorrow, I will apply these principles to congregations in Embedding Innovation at the Core of Your Organization Part 2.

The day after in Part 3, I will share some of my research -- examples of innovation processes from an innovative congregation.

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