#MicroStory – Innovation in non-hierarchal organization

What is the best process to increase innovation asked Jeff as he kicked off our first innovation group? That was a very diverse group Jinny from Accounting, Rob from Sigint, Don from Technologies, Shelly from IT, Ron from Humint, Rebecca from Desk, Melissa from HR, Maison form Legal and few other participants that I didn’t know.

It took me time to adjust to the new no hierarchal structure, but it was still strange to work in an environment that is not following the classical departments, a structure that is based on a collection of hybrid teams of different experts collected together to achieve common goals.

Process? Asked Don. When we used to be one department, we didn’t have any procedures to increase innovation. Our culture enables anyone to come with crazy ideas for improvement or new ways to help all the other departments. I would say that innovation in our department was more like evolution. Anyone could come with an idea, and if more people thought it worth something they will chime in working on a proof of concept, that might generate more support and work time. 

Eventually, the most successful ideas were presented to potential customers within the organization. Few of them made all the way to becoming a huge success. If we followed a process a recipe for innovation, we wouldn’t be able to come with so many technologies that helped us so much in the past.

Jinny looked at Don and asked him with her shy voice. If you don’t have any process to prevent anyone in your group to be focused just on innovation, how can you make sure that the daily mandate tasks that are crucial are carried out? I’m asking because we never experience any innovation in our department, she said. We focused on processes, segregation of duties, audits. You know anything that is needed to run the financial aspects of the organization. If we encourage innovation, first I’m not sure that we have the right people for that and if we do have, I’m sure they will be focused on innovation rather the daily grey work that also needed to be done.

Shelly joined the conversation. Our department used to struggle with this dilemma all the time Jinny. From one point of view, we need to focus on keeping all the business applications up and running. we expected to generate innovation by introducing new technologies and business solutions that will help any expert in our organization to reach their purpose. 

The way that we found to deal with those conflicting demands is by allocating a certain percentage of weekly working hours for several percentages of our department members enabling them to work on innovation. Then we more or less following Don natural selection process to filter innovation. But, now after we were forced to kill departments and to operate on hybrid teams, it feels that we need to find a new solution as the old departments are gone and what worked for one expertise in our organization is not working for others although they need to work together as one group.

everyone nodded their heads for agreement, but no one said any word for a long time.

After a few minutes of silence, Ron started to tweet with his voice that is entirely the opposite of what you expect from a man his size. It’s weird that we are talking about innovation as an effort that someone needs to pay attention to. For Humint and Desk, he said as he looked at Rebecca, there is nothing but innovation. Every attempt to get new information from human resources, every effort to recruit human resources, even every effort to meet with a human resource is based on innovation. 

Innovation is the key for all of those activities, and the same applies to Desk. Every work on a terror cell, every successful attempt to prevent them from reaching their mission is based on innovation. We don’t even think about it, for us, innovation is our Modus operandi. Isn’t that true? He asked Rebecca that nodes with her head.

Mellisa waited until Ron finished his peach. As the department that supports you all, I know that every department used to address innovation differently, and each one took differently in account innovation abilities when they looked for new members. Our task now is to find how we can address innovation in hybrid group. How to enable innovation in hybrid groups, while still support other people to do their daily work. Someone like me for example, someone that focuses on people’s needs and legal requirements, she said with a broad smile on her face.

“I want to share something,” said Rebecca. When Jeff collect us all to introduce the principles, we need to follow to gain a competitive advantage on our adversary he mentioned that we should adapt how they are organized and operate to beat them. So as someone that knows many of those groups extremely well let me share with you how they are dealing with innovation. That might help us. 

Our organization is based on guidelines that are coming from a group of experts, that what we are doing right now. Those guidelines, if they are coming from one department or a committee of several departments, are sent to all relevant groups, and they required to follow those guidelines. It’s always a group that guides other groups on how to operate or reaches outcomes that should help us achieve our goals. It is still a central group of expert overseeing other groups. 

Our enemy doesn’t work that way. They don’t have any central groups; they have connected cells that contain all needed function to reach a goal common to all cells. Each cell also doesn’t have guidelines, they have a clear purpose, and they allowed to do whatever they think and believe needed to reach their target. The result is that they can surprise us all the time with their creativity and manage so far to achieve their goal, much more than our achievement to prevent them from reaching their goal.

Following our enemies operation model, all we need to do is to focus on a clear purpose for each hybrid group and ensure them we support any creative way they will come with to reach their goal. That’s all. Very simple. If people know their purpose, if they will know that they can be innovative to achieve their goal in any creative way they choose; we will enable each group to reach their goal using the innovative method and level that worked for them.

Everyone nodded their head except Maison. “You mean that if someone comes with creative ways to stop a cell that is breaking the rules and regulations that we need to obey, we will support him?” said Maison with the harshest voice he could generate (and he could). “Is any hybrid group has a representative from our legal department?” asked Ron. “Don’t we have a conflict resolution process in place to resolve conflicts within and between hybrid group?” continued Ron. Maison nodded with his head.

“For me, innovation is not a process, It’s one of the incidents any group needs to be successful. Any group and any role within the group might need a different level of innovation, But anyone need innovation to help our organization to be successful” said Jeff. He paused for a while thinking about what to say next. “Let’s try Rebecca approach,” said Jeff with a very enthusiastic voice. We already define a purpose to each group and we already gave them autonomy to reach their goal. all we have to do is to reiterate our support for any level of innovation each group wants to exercise. Any objection? asked Jeff. The room remains in silence.

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