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The Idea-Driven Organization

Employees who make products, provide services, and work with customers have the best knowledge of how to improve their organizations. They have ideas that will make or save money, increase efficiency, lessen the environmental impact, improve customer service and relations, and lead to product innovation. Managers are generally not exposed to the experiences that spark those ideas. To capitalize on the best ones, organizations need to restructure and realign to encourage idea submission and facilitate implementation of suggested solutions. The Idea-Driven Organization explains why and how to do that. Alan G. Robinson and Dean M. Schroeder cite many examples of successful organizations and how their operations work. Innovation is a key to survival for organizations forced to do more with less. Idea-driven structures produce innovations and are much better suited than conventional structures to make innovations happen rapidly.

The authors explain that:

• Organizations could improve performance if managers solicited good ideas from employees and then implemented them. Front-line employees observe problems and opportunities for improvement that managers would not see. Those ideas help organizations spend less, make more, work smarter, and improve products and customer relations.

• Idea-driven organizations improve and innovate much faster and more effectively than traditional organizations. Front-line ideas often lead to significant innovations. Major innovations are often a result of many smaller ideas.

• Organizations usually must be realigned to be idea-driven. Structural and cultural changes are needed. Front-line ideas must be highly valued. Bureaucracy that impedes innovation and implementation of ideas must be eliminated or restructured. The engine of idea-driven organizations is ideas from the bottom, while the organizations are managed from the top.

• Implementing an idea-driven system takes at least six months and often more than two years. Employees at every level need to learn new skills and methods of operation. Budgeting, compensation, policies, and procedures need to be realigned to drive rapid improvement and innovation. The process is ongoing.

• Businesses need to adopt a long-term perspective by committing time, money, and support functions to developing and implementing new ideas.

The market for The Idea-Driven Organization is executives who have the authority to implement an idea-driven system. Other managers and supervisors might also be able to use an idea system at the department or team level.

Each chapter concludes with key points that recap much of their substance. The chapters contain many anecdotes and case studies from the authors’ consulting practice. Documentation is comprehensive and anticipated problems and how to deal with them is covered. Endnotes and an index help make the book useful as an ongoing reference manual.

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