Accelerate your supply chain innovation

Juniper_Innovations_supply_chain_business_analysisResearch into what makes companies innovative has revealed some fascinating insights.  Summed up in 6 areas we take a look at them here.

AchieveGlobal research has identified tactics that successful companies use to achieve an innovation culture.  Their findings are summarised in 6 groups.

1. Collaborative

Whilst history has shown that individuals can drive innovation, a collaborative approach is more successful using a large and diverse group of people.  Partly this is to do with the long time is takes to acquire expert knowledge, however the socioeconomic mix is also important, including youth and experience.  Also important is a mix of supply chain personnel from different departments, divisions and plants.

One key is to create an innovation ecosystem, for example using a mixture of in-house personnel, consultants, agencies, approved bodies and academics for example.  Juniper Innovations works with this kind of ecosystem to help give clients fresh ideas, new ways of thinking and providing practical solutions.  This works across different supply chain areas too from operational activities to planning, forecasting, asset management and health and safety.

2. Customer centred

Innovation can be created in a number of ways by talking to customers, such as:

  1. Group wisdom e.g. asking for product advice and features for new and existing products
  2. Reviewing with customers how products are used e.g. including ways that they weren’t originally intended
  3. Asking for new features or refining existing ones

As an example Juniper Innovations employ this technique with our warehouse management software and GPS tracking system.  In these cases customers request modifications and changes and the best ones get built into the next system release for free.  It also helps us learn about how the products are used and where they need to develop.

3. Context rich

Information sharing amongst workers helps to grow innovation.  This includes sharing across a variety of formats and media on a constant free-flow basis including:

  • Formal quality processes
  • Informal and ad hoc methods such as coffee meetings, shop floor Q&A, discovering ideas through crisis management, fire fighting etc.
  • Document sharing
  • System sharing
  • Social networking
  • Knowledge libraries

Some of our bespoke applications for example have help notes that can be amended online and visibility of helpdesk tickets to share answers to common problems or introduce ways to improve the use of technology, quickly across a larger work-group.

4. Curious

Generating a culture where employees are proactively encouraged to ask questions, check assumptions, consider different scenarios and challenge authority drives innovation.  For example it is well documented that Google allows employees to devote 10% of their time to projects of their choice.  This delivered Gmail and Google News for instance.

This culture can also be encouraged with a physical environment.  For example having cafes, open meeting places, relaxation lounges and social areas in buildings.  Employees can wander in and create informal networks to help foster sharing, ask questions and generate ideas.

Part of the role Juniper Innovations plays with clients is to help generate this curious culture by encouraging questions to be asked and assumptions to be challenged.  This has often helped people to increase understanding especially where problem solving and business analysis is concerned.

5. Confidence building

Research showed that by increasing employees self esteem and confidence generated innovation.  Techniques used included:

  • Continual training and education
  • Live instruction and online learning
  • Employer paid college courses
  • Job rotation
  • Mentoring programs
  • Stretch assignments
  • Technology and management learning
  • Motivational coaching
  • Effective management of shortcomings
  • Encouraging failure as a means to making progress and
  • Not using failure as a disincentive

The research also showed that innovative companies are cautious about wasting resources however are careful not to inhibit creative thinking by asking upfront questions about cost and payback.

There are many examples of good confidence building techniques within our client base with many of them willing to share techniques and lessons learned.

6. Challenging

Leaders of innovation help their companies overcome challenges.  They encourage this throughout the entire workforce in a number of ways:

  • Setting challenging yet realistic goals both in the immediate and longer term
  • Celebrate small wins
  • Ensure public commendation
  • Make innovation amongst managers a personal priority
  • Recognise innovation brings about change to processes, systems, job roles, functions and performance metrics
  • Manage resistance by helping employees understand that innovation makes the company prosper and that everyone benefits

Innovation helps drive businesses forward.  We agree that using these techniques will help foster a stronger innovation culture in any business.