Innovation is not a capital investment, it is an investment in your people.
Many people think that innovation is about creating a clever new gadget. The gadget is just something that enables us to do something in a new way. Successful innovation occurs when that new way is easy to adopt-people do not change their behaviors easily.
There is a classic story of the ketchup bottle. For years we had joked about the entire contents of the bottle suddenly emptying over a plate of food as people violently shook the reluctant contents. Heinz thought it would really help its customers if the bottle had the opening at the base so that the contents were always next to the opening. It even reversed the direction of the label so people could intuitively stand the bottle on its head. Three years after its introduction , however , 70% of customers ere still standing the bottle on its base with the label upside down. We do not change our behavior easily.
Organizations in the not -for- profit sector have many opportunities to innovate. As Plato said: "Necessity is the mother of all invention". The challenge is finding new ways of doing things that are easy to the user. If you see the challenges that humanitarian agencies have in overcoming corruption and waste when they provide third-world disaster relief, if you look at the frustration and wasteful waiting time in hospitals and if you think of the pain when the vital package was "lost in the post", the need for innovation is screaming at us. The solution may come from new technology or from stepping out of the box and seeing how a problem is solved in totally different sector.
Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, saw the bar coding being used in warehouses as the solution in his traceability problem. Forward thinking hospitals are seeing the just in time techniques of manufacturing as the way to overcome their queuing problems. We are bound to ask: what manufactuting techniques might be adapted to overcome the corruption and ineffeciency in disaster relief? I got angry when hospitals require their patients to be "patient". I get excited when I speak with physicians who ,when they hear about quality management , say " We need your help." They see the need to make the life of their patients less painful in all senses of the world.
A major international airport that I recently visited has initiated an innovation strategy and appointed a general manager of innovation. The management sees just one of its opportunities to beat the competition as making navigation through the airport easier for their client. Every organization has competition- those who innovate will beat the competition.
A decade ago my mother has been treated by two hospitals in the last five years that are only ten mile apart. The first ironically has "hope" in its title and will not direct my phone call if I call after a certain period of time. The second has "heart" as part of its title and is appropriately populated dedicated team of physicians and staff who recognize that solutions come from the collective knowledge of patients , physicians , staffs, and family.
Innovative solutions will come from your collective knowledge . Innovation is not a capital investment , it is an investment in your people . Your customers or clients and your staff are a great source of knowledge. However . don't ask them what new service they require; ask them what they are having difficulty getting done.
A customer satisfaction survey is a great tool for doing this, but if you are measuring customer satisfaction you are engaged in a feel-good experience that is a waste of time. If you are measuring customer dissatisfaction you are collecting the fuel for your innovation process. Follow three steps to innovate: first, know your customers' pain: second, step out of the box to see how others solved your problem in a different context: third, implement a solution that is easy to use.