Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

Good ideas can come from anywhere.  The challenge is creating an environment that invites people to contribute their very best thinking in a way that drives the performance of the business.

How successful is your company at tapping into the collective intelligence and imagination of employees?

That question is top of mind for many executives today.  I’ll be speaking on the subject of business performance at more than 70 conferences and corporate events in 2013 and managing change and innovation will be near the top of just about every agenda.

For good reason.  The world is changing fast and our challenges have become increasingly complex.  According to the 2012 IBM CEO Study:

“CEOs have a new strategy in the unending war for talent. They are creating more open and collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. Collaboration is the number one trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75 percent of CEOs calling it critical.”

It makes sense in theory, but isn’t always easy to put into practice.  Collaboration can bump up against all kinds of obstacles in in large, complex organizations.  I teach a course on Collaborative Leadership. and I make every attempt to take on the tension that results from trying to work together while balancing the new pace of business and pressure to perform.  In 2012, I had the good fortune of working with a customer who offered a compelling case study on change and innovation amid complexity.

That customer is AT&T. This 136-year-old company takes innovation seriously, and I’ve had the good fortune of meeting leaders across their business tackling challenges and change head on.  How are they rethinking AT&T? Here are three ways.

They have a place to collaborate.

AT&T Foundry. These are innovation centers where venture capitalists, developers and startups can get a meeting at AT&T, and move through a fast-pitch process that takes only 10 to 15 minutes. AT&T’s centers in Plano, Texas, Ra’anana, Israel and Palo Alto, Calif., have played host to more than 1,000 pitches. This video offers a little more insight into the foundry concept.

They have a way to bring the best ideas forward.

The Innovation Pipeline (TIP). This is a crowdsourcing and collaboration tool, designed to tap the collective imagination of employees. Ideas grow, get refined and enhanced – and the best ideas get turned into real products, applications and services for our customers.  Employees suggest products, services and even processes that will improve the company, and their peers get to vote them up or down.  With TIP, employees vote on the 10 best suggestions every quarter and those are presented at a fast-pitch session. Three receive funding from AT&T’s own angel funds. To date, more than 22,000 ideas have been generated, with 50 items patented and 17 services launched.

They involve the customer.

AT&T is taking a new approach to “bring the brand to life” inside it’s new, first ever flagship store on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.  Complete with App Tenders,  an Experience Platform, and Lifestyle Boutiques, the experience was most certainly a leap of innovation and something a customer might not initially expect from AT&T.  That is exactly the point.  Take a video tour of the store.

How are you rethinking your business? 

Ryan Estis & Associates is a training and development organization helping companies, leaders, sellers and individual contributors embrace change and achieve breakthrough performance in the new economy. We offer keynotes, live classroom training and online learning that blends interaction, energy and actionable content designed to elevate performance. Contact us for programming inquiries and assistance determining the curriculum that could best support your learning and development objectives.

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