How to be an innovative business without drowning in bureaucracy
The 21st century business needs to be lean and responsive if it is to stay competitive and this can be difficult if it is shackled or tied up in bureaucratic red tape. Innovative business ideas are those eureka moments where someone throws out an observation and it turns into a product. Innovative business is always facing the challenge of time; the time for ideas to become products, the time to respond to a competitive threat; the time it takes to get everyone on board with an idea. Bureaucracy is an enemy of time – it tends to have the effect of trying to run through treacle. An innovative business approach to this is demonstrated by the American semiconductor giant Broadcom who have engineering teams across the world all working on new projects at the same time – effectively using 24 hour days. They also train their employees in critical thinking, making presentations and other communication skills to enable them to get their ideas across effectively and swiftly.
Bureaucracy seems obvious in large business but it still compromises smaller companies who ought to be better positioned to be lean and efficient. The danger point is as a business grows from a handful of friends working together to an organisation that needs some form of systemisation to enable further growth. Systems are necessary, but how you set them up can determine how innovative a business you can be in the future.
Here are my suggestions to maintain your innovative business profile, or recover the spirit of innovation in your business – let’s get the monster of bureaucracy back under control.
Communication systems and the innovative business
Human interaction creates innovation not emails. However, meeting for meetings sake is often a tedious, tiresome activity and a waste of time. Mixing up who is at meetings is a way around this. Instead of department based meetings – get a person from each area to a meeting once a month – with a single item agenda and time simply for discussion. For true innovation representatives should be from different levels of the organisation; bright ideas are not the prerogative of management.
JUNK Emails are not just those your spam bots sweep away; you could apply the term junk to over 50 % of an organisations’ inbox. They have replaced the dreaded memo that landed on your desk with monotonous regularity in the 1980’s.
Rule number 1 is to separate your emails into work and “Other” those promotional and informational emails you subscribed to in a moment of weakness. A useful tool is a service called Unroll.Me which literally rolls up all those subscription emails into one so clearing them out of the way of important work emails. They also encourage you to unsubscribe which you should do on a regular basis to declutter your inbox.
Next, change the email culture in your organisation. Get your IT department, or a tech savvy employee, to set up email groups so that emails only go to the right people.
Set aside a specific time of day to answer emails and stick to it. If a message is urgent, then pick up the phone or send a text rather than hitting send. If an email needs to be answered but comes in at the wrong time of day, use a service like Boomerang to get it to reappear later (this works on Gmail and Outlook.)
Rules, regulations, procedures and the innovative business
Every company has rules and regulations imposed on them from outside but they don’t have to be duplicated and triplicated internally. If you have documents your employees need to sign, follow and agree to- have them online in a company drive not printed and sent to every employee. Utilise electronic signatures and save on printing costs. Check out all the cool business apps that Google offer to streamline your business paperwork and save everyone time, money and sheer boredom.
Structures and the innovative business
A traditional hierarchical business with layers of management a narrow span of control and long chain of command suffocates the innovative business. Spend your valuable time on recruiting a workforce you can trust and take out the layers- for a faster more responsive, autonomous workforce that creates an innovative business. Matrix structures where teams work horizontally rather than vertically allow for a flow of ideas and better team spirit and therefore a more motivated workforce. As you grow, ask yourself- Do I really need another layer of management?
Be ruthless for an innovative business model
At every step of the way as your business grows, ask yourself if a system adds to efficiency and innovation- if it doesn’t then find an alternative or don’t implement it. Bureaucracy does not need to stifle your innovative business if you don’t let it in.