Committees do not innovate, individuals do

The lie: form an innovations committee to explore novel ways of winning. An innovations committee will transform your company. Why it is a lie:

The lie: form an innovations committee to explore novel ways of winning. An innovations committee will transform your company.

Why it is a lie: individuals innovate. However, teams, committees, and groups implement faster. Committees do not innovate. They may help evaluate ideas. If you want to find novel ways of winning, share your vision, and empower individuals to find better ways of solving your challenges and then you may have a committee to evaluate the best idea.

Insight in detail

During a strategy retreat which I facilitated at a financial institution client, one of the participants reacting to the recommendations to increase funding to the innovations committee, said “the innovations committee is a waste of time. It not only fails to generate new ideas but sits on the good ones which some staff submit.” Adding that “we rather use the budget to be allocated to the committee as an innovations fund and encourage University students to apply.” He was spot on. And that is the power of experience.

Indeed, people at the front line of the business, involved in its day to day have better ideas on how to improve them and the business. Empowering folks at the front line to think and share ideas is key in process improvement and business transformation. The role of the top management is to share the future of the business, and the challenges that stand in the way. Then people can be allowed to think. Rarely do committees generate winning ideas. However, committees are good at executing great ideas.

The way some leaders got to the top has an impact on their innovation capacity. The Japanese style of leadership is such that someone starts from lower ranks and raises to the top—that way they gain an understanding of how the business operates. People usually promoted to the top must have gone through the lower ranks and systematically proved themselves for a promotion until they role to senior levels. Such people have visibility of the business processes and more likely to generate great, transformative ideas.

Do you have an innovations committee? What impact has it made on your business? If it works keep it. However, if you empower individuals to innovate, you are likely to win than if you empower a committee to do the job. It is the approach. A committee may be innovative. But this article is about effectiveness and impact.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, Mr. Strategy 2021.

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