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Sustaining Your Vision Through Innovation

Monday, February 4, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Hilary Korabik
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Sustaining Your Vision Through Innovation
By Robert Nowak, Partner at Baker Tilly

Too often success is defined in tangible terms: meeting budgets, bottom lines, earnings growth, job profitability or a successful implementation. Effective leaders recognize that long-term organizational success though relies on intangible factors: workforce innovation and organizational trust.

Training versus Innovation

 Mention “workforce innovation and development” and the thoughts of job training come to mind. Workforce innovation is deeper and sustained. Training is job or skill specific and involves a behavior that needs to be learned now in order to perform the job according to established guidelines and norms. Training focuses on the organization’s short-term goals for the individual. Workforce innovation is a fluid, continuous and long-term strategy of inspiring the entire organization to improve. Workforce innovation requires the individual to look past the guidelines and develop more efficient and effective norms. In effect, an innovative workforce doesn’t recognize that there are norms.


There is rarely only one way to solve a problem (just ask any parent that has ever tried the “new math” taught in schools). By soliciting innovative ideas directly from front-line workers, an organization harnesses the natural cognitive diversity of the group. Front line employees are in the trenches daily, dealing with customers and vendors directly, seeing first-hand built-in process and organizational inefficiencies. Encouraging employees to put forth new and creative ideas is necessary to developing an innovative workforce. Looking at different options to address issues and different ways of completing tasks can keep a workplace vibrant and more open to new ideas.

“Great leaders don’t hire smart people and tell them what to do.” I wish I had said that, but I didn’t. It was Steve Jobs. And he was right. Don’t constrain employee ideas with established boundaries. Develop a culture where employees are rewarded for looking outside the organization and industry to develop new and effective ways to execute the company objectives. The question on employees’ minds should always be, “How can we do things better and how can we provide better services to our customers?” Leaders who are willing to take the advice of employees, will enable a workforce that continuously suggests how management can improve operations. 

 Build Trust

Thomas Edison tried and failed one-thousand times before he invented the lightbulb. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but employees need to feel safe trying out new ideas in the workplace.  Employees need assurance that mistakes made when testing new ideas will NOT be held against them. Want to get your workforce comfortable taking risks?  Model that behavior. Your workforce will be willing to take risks and suggest new ideas if their leaders live a culture of trying new ideas with mixed results. 

For those with kids, we constantly remind them “everybody makes mistakes.” If mistakes were not an essential element of life, we all would be scratch golfers and baseball would be littered with 1.000 hitters.  Mistakes provide opportunities for learning and making more informed decisions in the future. Openly communicate there should be no fear in making a mistake. As a result, employees will implement, test and refine their ideas and an innovative mindset will begin to take hold.

Make it Your Culture

Is continual improvement one of your organization’s foundational values? If not, why not? Regularly share examples of how continuous improvement has been incorporated throughout the organization — from operating procedures through service execution. Make this the pervasive attitude throughout the company. Publicly celebrate innovative successes. Recognition in the company’s newsletter, staff meetings and management meetings motivates employees to look for innovative solutions.

About the author: Rob Nowak is a tax partner with Baker Tilly, specializing in work with construction companies. He has experience in the technical areas of partnership taxation, taxation of closely held corporations and mergers and acquisitions. Rob can be reached at

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