Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Idea Generators

Throughout this blog I have consistently talked about how important it is for us to look for new ideas and approaches to the provision and delivery of services for individuals with cognitive, intellectual, and developmental disabilities.

But I want to let you know that I understand that this is something that is easier said than done. New ideas don’t usually just pop up out of nowhere – often the process is complex and involves a lot of factors coming together just perfectly, like in this video:

We at Imagine! have made a commitment to making idea generation and sharing part of our organizational culture. I know this is not going to happen overnight, but the long-term benefits to seeking out new ideas and approaches are incalculable, especially considering the ever growing need we are facing without a corresponding growth in resources to meet those needs.

We are tackling this commitment in several ways.

Our ever increasing use of social media has opened the door for consumers, families, funders, and other community members to engage with us on a conversation level in a way never before possible. Ideas can be shared freely and publicly and built upon. And I’m finding that as more and organizations get on the social media bandwagon, my ability to discover new ideas and approaches from others, and then engage in dialogue with the organizations and people who have those ideas, has increased exponentially.

Another great source of ideas is our hard working Direct Support Providers right here at Imagine!. They are the ones on the front lines every day, and who better to see first hand how an idea may make everybody’s life easier? Unfortunately, great ideas haven’t always been passed up the chain of command in the past. Maybe a supervisor was too busy to act on the idea. Or maybe the employee worried that the idea would be ignored so it didn’t get shared in the first place. Either way, I know there are great ideas out there just waiting to be heard. That is why I am so pleased that the 2009-2010 Imagine! Leadership Development Group (LDG) created a project designed to make the sharing of ideas easier across our company.

Using a social media platform, the LDG is creating a system for idea sharing in which the “chain of command” no longer applies. Good ideas can be shared with all levels of employees, from the person who has been with Imagine! for only three months all the way up to senior managers with 30 plus years of experience. It can cross generations, departments and management levels, evening the playing field for anyone who has a good idea. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this project plays out – it has a great deal of potential to change the way provide our services in a very positive way.

Another way we are committing to being active in our pursuit of new ideas in still in its infancy stages, but it is something I am very excited about. I recently finished reading a book called “Chief Culture Officer: How To Create a Living, Breathing Corporation” by Grant McCracken. The main point of this book is that every organization needs to commit to being aware of what is going on in the world of pop culture, to be able to identify key developments while actively searching for that “a-ha” moment – where the time, place, and need all combine to not only provide the perfect space for an organization to come up with a new idea, but also to develop that idea into a successful reality.

McCracken argues in his book that having a Chief Culture Officer at an organization, one who is charged with the responsibility of tracking the world of pop culture, will pay dividends for the organization short- and long-term. I’d like to take it a step further. At Imagine!, we have a vast array of intelligent and connected employees who have a variety of hobbies and interests outside of work. If we can harness that knowledge through a culture of awareness of how what is happening outside of our DD world can potentially impact what we do inside of our DD world, many more fresh and unique ideas will be germinated. And if we have a system in place to share those newly germinated ideas, the likelihood that we can improve upon what will only increase. Again, this is early, but I see a great deal of potential here.

I’d love to hear ideas from others on how to best encourage and implement new ideas. Feel free to share!

Then again, what do I know?

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