Leaders should work to build workplace teams that listen to all members’ ideas.

Innovation would, in the context of this article, mean better processes, services, ideas or products that are accepted.

The list is not exhaustive. It would also mean value addition to services and products, backed by improved technological solutions.

The list is not exhaustive. It would also mean value addition to services and products, backed by improved technological solutions.

But why and for whom are we being innovative? The end consumer of all the innovations is always the customer. In many world class companies across Kenya, employees drive these changes.

To remain competitive and ahead of the game one must be able to retain champions or star workers and be able to treat them differently to take advantage of their innovative capabilities.

Investment in Technology

To ensure this happens there must be investment in technology which means doing things differently and retraining employees for new processes.

This is an interesting concept because from my experience working for various top companies, I discovered that most of them employed new technology to speed up and mechanise old processes instead of designing new ones.

This causes a lot of resistance because they are disturbing the comfort zone of what the employees have been used to for years.

New thinking is that one must consult the employees, especially those who are “customer- facing” and make them lead the process of change and maintain them.

This brings innovation to the old system of doing things, thus eliminating waste and streamlining operations for a better customer service. Happy customers mean more business and is a win- win for all.

Ask your employees to recommend changes, implement them and ask for feedback to avoid taking the firm in the wrong direction.

Implementing new technology, such including modules, can only work if there is a buy -in from the employees.

What is most important is to have a good top- to-bottom management in a company that can drive and support changes — a structure that is able to effectively understand the needs of the day.

The company’s culture and behaviours are crucial as they are what often hit employee morale, slow down operations and most importantly eliminate innovative solutions and thinking.

Some of the problems are lack of communication to people who are not peers and reluctance to act on employees’ ideas. This leads to frustration and finally patronage to the boss so as to remain relevant in the company.

Every manager’s, including the CEO’s job, is to execute good ideas and thought- processes that benefit the customer and add value to the company.

Dedicated employees

Organisations must realise that to stay ahead, they must retain qualified, inventive, smart-working, and dedicated employees.

But these key people will also have to be nurtured, guided and be given time to be creative.

Few companies, if any in Kenya, that allow their employees time to think during “working hours” as they must focus on the job they were hired to do.

Only in their spare time can they think of innovation. Most managers are under pressure to produce immediate results and look at the short- term gain.

They are stuck with old procedures in their daily operations. Most of the continuous improvement methods are focused on boosting production systems rather than satisfying customer demand.

This forces employees to stick to laid out systems rather than think of new ways of doing things or encourage experimentation.

Some organisations have no forums for discussion or experimentation as they are steeped in routine.

It is, however, paramount for a company or organisation to have an environment that not only encourages employees to work efficiently, but also recognises, fosters and guides them to produce results that add value to the company —with the customer in mind all the time.

Mr Taibjee is a customer service consultant based in Nairobi

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