The future organization exists in a world of constant change and disruption. In order to survive, thrive and succeed in this environment, they have to look beyond their boundaries and create systems that will take them on the road to progress.

Traditionally organizations depended on their R&D department or a small team of “experts” to come up with innovations of ideas, products, markets, service offerings, customer satisfaction etc. But in the future of work innovations are welcome from any source and at any time. Innovations that don’t work out are not seen as failures but as a step towards the final goal.

Five sources for innovations

For these organizations, there are five sources for innovations – employees, consumers/customers, partners/associates/suppliers, competitors, public – and technology is facilitating this process.

Employees are most closely involved with the organizations activities – product development, production, marketing, customer servicing, etc. Consequently they have a host of new ideas for innovating products, services, processes which they cannot share because there is no system of doing so. But organizations like Whirlpool, Google, Tata’s, 3M, that have found ways to incorporate employee innovation have benefited  on sales and profits.

Consumers or customers of an organizations products and services are well placed to come up with ideas of how to improve product offerings. Organizations like Starbucks, FedEx which have encouraged and set up workable systems for customer feedback, suggestions, ideas, concepts have come up with better, customer-oriented, offerings that have benefited them as well as their customers. When organizations act on customer-generated innovations, they can modify their products and services to what the final consumer desires and which will give them greater satisfaction that what is currently available.

The third source of innovation

The third source of innovation are the suppliers, partners and other associates who do business with the organization. These stakeholders can offer suggestions on what will work and what will not.  They can offer innovative  ideas on logistics, on the supply-chain, on transportation & storage, on distribution channels.

They can also come up with new ideas about product features or even new products  and can share consumer and customer feedback and insights with organizations and provide guidelines on future action. Regular meetings with business associates and suppliers will encourage brainstorming and can bring forth innovative ideas on new products, product features, production techniques, packaging, pricing, marketing, cost-saving, distribution, merchandising, promotion and may other areas.

Creativity is present in people from all walks of life.

Open to receiving and considering new ideas

Organizations that are open to receiving and considering new ideas, concepts, potential products etc from anyone, anywhere in the world have a larger store of innovative ideas and products to choose from. Unilever, P&G, Lego, Philips and others invite suggestions from the public by posting their requirements on their website – this could be for new ideas and suggestions, or  for solutions to problems or issues that they face. By opening up to the world at large, they increase the opportunities they can avail of and build on.

Finally, organizations should not rule out the possibility of learning and gaining from their competitors – this learning can be informal when employees of competing companies meet socially or at conferences, workshops etc, or it can be a formal teaming up of organizations to work towards a common goal like production efficiencies, superior product, or faster delivery.

It is necessary for organizations to build and sustain knowledge ecosystems in each of these five groups and utilize the offerings of each in order to succeed in the future of work.