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Inspiring innovation in the workplace

March 19, 2008

How does a corporation inspire an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit within it’s employees?

Innovation flows from the people, pervades the culture, and is reflected in the environment. It is upon this last point that I wish to focus on today, because I believe that we are influenced by our surroundings.   A few banners hung from the ceiling emblazoned with “Be innovative” would hardly be effective.   No,  the entire environment must be carefully thought out – the lighting, the architecture, the choice and variety of color and juxtaposition of textures.   Subtle prompts might also be interspersed within the officescape.

On each floor of our buildings at work, a different colorful and thought provoking quote greets employees and guests as they disembark the bank of elevators.

third floor

This example from the third floor reads “Small Opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises“.

Each day on the way to and from my desk, the second floor greets me with John F Kennedy’s inspirational challenge to the status quo:

There are costs and risks to a program of action, but they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

I find this one especially meaningful, as it speaks to the courage to undertake change, to risk bold steps for a better and brighter tomorrow. It’s appealing to me, and I find it motivates me to take on the more challenging issues today, rather than comfortably defering them until later.

Passing a few moments before entering a conference room, my eye is drawn to the discrete plaque affixed to the frosted glass wall by the door. Each room’s plaque features a different person of significance. The facts and circumstances of their greatness are clearly outlined, but each also provokes further thought, sparking inspiration and innovation. For example:

Hedy Lamarr

Aparantly, Hedy was an actress who also happened to dabble in spread spectrum technology, specifically code division multiple access, or CDMA which later became the basis for cell telephone and wireless network access, though initially conceived for torpedo guidance.  Who knew?

From this I conclude that innovative ideas may come from anywhere – one doesn’t have to be solely a scientist or engineer by formal position in order to produce an innovative idea which in time, may become something far larger and more foundational than what was originally envisioned or intended. Small breakthroughs today may become the basis for revolutionary thinking tomorrow.

It is these sorts of little details woven into the workplace tapestry that catch workers eyes, and keep their mind active, sparking diverse thought patters which in turn, can lead to breakthroughs of their own.

Hats off to those who planned this out.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 19, 2008 9:37 pm

    There is one thing that can boost Innovation (or procrastination) above all other: Idle Time.

    When the head is under the water I tend to start trimming the things I can afford to cut off. One of the first to fall is Creativity.

    With several balls in the air it is impossible to take time, relax and just THINK.

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