From a business perspective, we certainly live in interesting, exciting and downright confusing times. The word ‘change’ seems to power an ever-increasing amount of content marketing and blogs that I come across (perhaps I am drawn to these?).
Recently, I read one article in particular which inspired me to start tapping my own fingers on the keyboard to write this piece. Published in HR Daily on September 3rd, Silvia Damiano, CEO of About My Brain Institute, suggests that the onset of the Imagination Age has arrived, where ideas, rather than knowledge, equal power. “What will differentiate us from the rest is how we then act on this knowledge”.
This is not necessarily a new concept. US-based consultancy firm Maverick & Boutique has argued for a few years now that we are leaving behind the Eras of Information and Knowledge, and entering the Era of Wisdom, characterised by the wise application of knowledge. (By the way, the onset of the Era of Knowledge only commenced around the year 2000, by comparison the Industrial Age lasted for around 250 years!!).
I should state from the outset, I support the view that as we move further into the future, more and more information and data will become democratised, readily accessible, or easy to obtain. In schools, kids are being taught the skill of how to obtain information, rather than necessarily needing to learn and recall it (at what cost is the question I would like to ask!). On the subject of the implications for Leaders of the Imagination Age, I won’t try to improve on Silvia’s article – I agree with the content.
I would however like to ponder for a moment a number of other implications from the perspective of those who aren’t Leaders.
For me, ‘ideas’ fall into the same bucket as Insight, Creativity and Problem Solving. The ability to draw existing pieces of information together and transform them into a new workable solution (does this sound suspiciously like Innovation?). The thing is, most of these ideas can’t always come from Leaders. In fact, the data and information which are used to generate new ideas will often have to come from non-Leaders who are often at the coal-face of the organsiation, dealing first-hand with customers, systems and processes, and implemented solutions which started their life as an idea.
‘Ideas’ as a metric
If idea generation and problem solving are becoming essential skills, how many organisations are evaluating employees on their idea generation capability? How many are including ‘ideas’ as part of a person’s responsibilities? How many organisations are routinely and systematically seeking out each possible opportunity to incrementally improve their business through ideas from their employees? And how many organisations are doing this outside of their annual employee survey process?
How many organisations are measuring the number of ideas they are generating in a period, assessing and feeding progress back to the organisation?
In the Information Age, these ar potentially valuable metrics that are often overlooked. In a world where change is exponential, the number of potential problems and opportunities must also be on the increase. One just needs to enlist the support of the entire organisation. ‘Leaders’ cannot possibly see every problem or opportunity by themselves.
Simple Ideas as a competitive advantage
In an economy which continues to balk at major capital expenditure, minor incremental improvements are possibly the new black when it comes to sustainable competitive advantage. A micro-improvement here, a small change there. They are much easier for employees and customers to digest and accept, and often don’t cost a lot of money. The macro impact over time is potentially huge. Imagine if each person in the organisation was to come up with an idea that shaved a fraction of one percent off costs, or improved efficiency by a fraction of one percent, each year. An organisation which continuously harnesses its powerful collective brain is in a very, very strong competitive position – but it is often overlooked because it is not sufficiently sexy for the Consultants who need to meet their fee targets. Major change projects cause untold anxiety and disruption – not to mention the cost. My prediction is – proactive idea capture is the new black when it comes to competitive advantage.
Here’s the idea – capture your ideas!
Jason Buchanan is GM Insight & Innovation for Optimum Consulting Group and idea-capture platform Employee Life