Where Great Ideas Are Born

The inspiration for the title of this post actually comes from an article in Inc. in the May 2010 issue. (I am a bit behind in reading, but better late than never.) The online version can be found here at Incubation Nation. The article itself does not have anything to do with human resources. It is about 20 centers of innovation around the United States where new ideas and new start up companies are fostered and developed. It is an interesting read to find what and where. The relationship to HR comes from the fact that reading this prompted two questions to me.

First, where is the innovation in HR coming from? Are there “centers” of HR thought? Are there any HR thinktanks? (Cornell perhaps?) I am not sure if this can be tied to a location. It can certainly be tied to an event, that of HREvolution. (Hey Trish… when and where is the next one? I would suggest Atlanta, which will also be the host city for SHRM in 2011. We could have a convergence of meetings and a divergence of thought all at the same time.) It can also be tied to a number of people I consider “thought leaders.” These include Trish McFarlane, Kris Dunn, Laurie Ruettimann, Steve Boese, Jessica Lee to name just a few. (The ranks grow each day. There is some very creative stuff coming from very creative people that you won’t find in the mainstream HR literature. You need to read their blogs. It is encouraging to see, however, some of this stuff starting to seep into some mainstream channels.) Perhaps you, the reader, can someone you consider to be a thought leader in HR? Who is the engine leading your train of thought?

The second question this article prompted was one for you, yes you! Does your company have great ideas being born? Do you have centers in your organization where creativity runs free? Or do you have an organization that lets convention run roughshod over creativity? Do you reward it or punish it?

What about you personally? Have you had a great idea that you have been able to implement? Was it easy or hard to do? If it was hard for you then it is probably hard for others. What can you do differently in your organization to foster “great ideas”?

I know, this is more questions than answers. I am looking for the answers from you. Give me examples, give me names, give me ideas….

7 thoughts on “Where Great Ideas Are Born”

  1. Mike – thanks so much for the mention in such smart and talented company. I think for me, people like Frank Roche, Tim Sackett, and Lance Haun consistently create and share challenging and thought provoking material. I personally look up to and am inspired by people that challenge you to think, and not ones that try and spell out all the answers. I think the big challenge in many organizations is creating and supporting an environment where ideas can surface, get discussed, and the best ones moved forward. Often too much of these discussions take place in too small work teams, or are buried in two-way email streams, and could benefit from more exposure and visibility throughout the organization. Many organizations have made significant progress in opening up to more contributors, but far more still rely on the traditional sources and methods I think.

  2. Thank you for the mention Mike. I cannot take the credit though because in order to be truly innovative, you need a team of people to believe in you and in the idea. What I've found is a group of HR and recruiting pros who are hungry for doing all they can to evolve the role of HR practitioner. Those are the people who jumped on the HRevolution idea and helped me bring it to life.

    To answer some of your questions, I do have people that influence me. One to make mention of is Greg Matthews. Here is a link to a discussion he had about innovation. http://www.businessinnovationfactory.com/iss/video/bif5-greg-matthews
    I am also influenced by other non-HR sites and leaders. One I especially like is scienceblogs.com. There, I find ideas from the science community that I try to twist into HR related ideas. It's a fun and challenging effort. Lastly, I am lucky to work in an organization that feeds the minds of those who want to be creative. I am part of our organization's innovation team made up of people from all different disciplines in the organization. The sky is the limit with the group. It's a great way to keep the fresh ideas coming and the energy needed to bring them through to fruition.

  3. Steve, thank you for pointing out Frank, Tim and Lance. I too think they are great for presenting you with a challenge. And you are correct that creativity is often buried in organizations that do not have an environment to nuture those ideas, much to the lose of the organization as a whole.

    Trish, thanks for pointing out that creativity and innovation are often collaborative efforts. I am looking forward to the opportunity to get involved in HRE. And thanks for the links. I will definately be checking them out.

  4. I think many of the companies out there want to foster environments for great thinking, but so many encourage ideas but never move forward on ideas of others outside of the executive leadership team. I believe that because of that, the desire to contribute ideas freely gets squelched.

  5. My company takes great ideas and, through a long and varied list of words and actions, destroys them completely.
    -Hey, you want to make that process better? Well, let's wait for six months and see if it fixes itself (um, it hasn't for the past 10 years, why now?).
    -Why don't we take this idea and to a short pilot program to test if it is what we're looking for? Hmmm, I don't know if we should try that now. We have too little money to be spending it on things like improving the organization.

    And on and on and…

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