Home > NewsRelease > Empower Operational Employees to Innovate
Empower Operational Employees to Innovate
Gregg Fraley -- Best Keynotes on Creativity & Innovation Gregg Fraley -- Best Keynotes on Creativity & Innovation
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Chicago , IL
Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Brown Bag IconThe Benefits of Innovation Training for Operational Employees

85% of CEOs put Innovation as a Top Three priority

Consider a Brown Bag Innovation Training or Immersion in Innovation Concepts

Why is it that organizations don’t invest in training operational employees? It’s an opportunity to improve innovation culture that few are taking up.
Imagine the impact that basic training in Creative Problem Solving* and innovation concepts would have — more innovation across the entire value chain of the business.
Don’t this large group of employees deserve a Brown Bag Innovation Training? Or better yet a full immersion in Innovation Concepts? 
Forbes says innovation training is one of the 12 factors a company needs, to establish a more inventive culture. Companies are investing in innovation training, mostly learning frameworks like Lean, Agile, or Design Thinking. And that’s a good thing. Who’s getting the training? Nearly all that training is for dedicated innovation teams, or employees who are focused on new product development.
It’s great those folks get the training, and, a missed opportunity to provide training to the operational work force.

It’s almost as if creativity from operational employees is actively discouraged.

The truth is, sometimes creativity is discouraged, because it’s perceived as a loss of control. And management of operations is all about control. That’s old school thinking. You won’t improve operations without an innovative mindset and culture.

Organizations that invest in training operational employees gain these benefits:

  • Inspired employees who embrace innovation (even if it’s not their day-to-day job)
  • Employees that understand that innovation means survival, growth of the org. — and their jobs
  • A culture shift away from cynicism towards optimism, improvement, and invention
  • Engaged support for strategic and tactical innovation initiatives developed by others
  • Reduced expenses through greater efficiency and productivity in internal processes
  • Increased revenue by gaining more repeat business, due to improvements in sales and customer service
Would these benefits make a difference at your organization?
The term organization is meant to imply that this message is for more than corporations. Training in innovation benefits employees who work for: non-profits, economic development groups, associations, and governmental entitites.
Let’s remind ourselves: Innovation isn’t just new products. Let’s remember that there are many kinds of innovation from small improvement “i” to big breakthrough “I”. And across the value chain of your entire business — in other words, Operations. For more on types of innovation, see The Doblin Group work.
Innovation should not be, the exclusive domain of a separate team. Dedicated teams are only part of the solution.
Innovation, in some form, needs to be implemented horizontally across an organization.
Many employees, hired to do operations, don’t feel that innovation is part of their job. When asked to support innovation, or integrate new ideas from an innovation team, they resist — because they are being paid to execute, not experiment.
Suggestion boxes don’t work: thought of as a way to include “non-innovation” employees, suggestions boxes (real or virtual) typically don’t work. The questions are too broad. The “ideas” become complaints. Then there is usually not enough communication about what is done with the few ideas that do have merit. This creates cynicism. Idea campaigns can work, but only if it’s done with a focused question, and, that focus is connected to a mandated project. Results of the campaign must be communicated, or, even if it works, you’ll ruin your innovation culture building.

Management that says they want an innovative culture and then don’t make any investment in training, are just paying lip service.

Many employees don’t understand the first thing about the complex topic of innovation. If the myths were dispelled they’d be able to better contribute, and that could make a big difference. See my true story below for an example.
Every employee can potentially contribute significantly to innovation — if empowered with training.
Why not give them the training that will accelerate your innovation across the board?

Consider a Brown Bag Innovation Training Lunch from GFi as a way to get started. Or, book a full day immersion in Innovation Concepts.

It’s called Brown Bag because the intention is to do training over an extended lunch period. Can be a single event or a connected series. GFi customizes the training to your organization.

Innovation Facilitation Training is more advanced, and would make every meeting you have more effective

*Creative Problem Solving, aka “CPS” refers to the Osborn-Parnes model of Creative Problem Solving. Osborn was the inventor of brainstorming.

TRUE STORY about how ideas from a low level, untrained worker made a Huge Difference

Credit this story to Min Basadur who told it a few years ago at the CPSI conference (CPSI is the annual Creative Problem Solving Institute).
A Japanese semi-conductor manufacturer built three separate state-of-the-art plants to make computer chips, in separate locations. A huge investment. The plants were absolutely identical, down to the slippers workers would wear in the clean rooms. As manufacturing began, two plants quickly achieved Six Sigma quality. The third plant, mysteriously, did not. It was costing the company millions and threatening their future. The engineers went crazy looking for any possible reason why the chips were below quality. One batch was perfect, the next was not, and for no apparent reason. They exhausted every possible avenue to discover the problem. In sheer desperation, they called every employee into a meeting and walked them through the details of the challenge, and, asked for ideas. Culturally, in Japan, workers are trained to submit ideas and suggestions, and they do so at a high rate. So, the ask was taken seriously. One worker, an older woman, who was part of the clean up crew, essentially the lowest level of employee at the plant, with no technical training, at all, thought about the problem. On her way home from work, she was thinking about it while waiting for her train to arrive. She was standing on the platform, and in her sight, about a half mile away, was the plant. As her train arrived she felt vibrations under her feet. She looked over at the plant. She wondered, could the vibrations from the train travel that far? She submitted the idea the next day. Sure enough, it was the train vibrations that were throwing off the equipment used to manufacture chips. This discovery remedied the problem, with billion dollar repercussions. It saved the plant — and the company.
This is why training in innovation for operational employees should be done.
Founding Partner
KILN Ideas, Ltd.
Three Oaks, MI