Trust Your Core Products, People

The opportunity to do something meaningful at work is the best thing an employer can offer.

By Dean Horowitz, Publisher | October 31, 2003


Dean Horowitz, Publisher


We talk about innovation regularly. Some believe it's a magic formula that, when used in business conversations and applied to newly minted mission statements, miraculously motivates the best "out-of-the-box" thinkers to push a company ahead of its competitors.

Employee recognition programs and cross-functional teams drive development of new, more profitable products that extend a brand or expand a company into a new business category. Never mind the core products that built the organization, now is the time for the next idea to deliver growth and market share.

This has evolved into an embarrassing strategy, for you either have a customer- driven organization or you don't. You either have employees who are curious and often bored with their past achievements or you don't.

Bestowing a gift certificate to someone for an idea that saved the company a few hundred dollars will not build trust into an organization.

Intelligent risk taking must be natural, with shared trust completely embedded in a culture, or innovation will be only part of a phrase in a mission statement hung on a waiting room wall.

Intel is a great example of a company with innovation so firmly established in its culture that employees probably make pained expressions when someone brings up the word. Inventing and producing the best semiconductor chips available remain a core aspect of its business.

To achieve this goal reliably, Intel devotes a substantial percentage of its budget to research and development. It eliminates barriers between departments and job responsibilities and provides autonomy to the groups with established track records.

Semiconductor chips? We build homes. Yikes, there isn't much difference.

Our industry showcases innovation usually through projects involving builders found on Professional Builder's GIANTS list and the many categories of building product manufacturers and services available. They have the resources to explore new ways to hire and train people, buy and develop land, and examine the supply chain, and because of their volume, they can explore ideas such as even-flow production.

These innovative and evolutionary ideas - no matter what the source - ultimately apply to any builder's business. These ex-plorations become best practices for the rest of us.

But the GIANTS are not the only builders demonstrating innovation.

The majority of our nation's builders are entrepreneurs whose very business is a daily test of creativity, no-barrier work environments and listening to customers. It not only is their daily test, it also drives their very existence.

So here is the thing: We must start with a culture that always pushes our core business in the direction of curiosity and trust. Every management book tells us that recognition is important, but the opportunity to do something meaningful at work is the best thing an employer can offer. The non-clichéd innovative environment means individuals' labor and love come together to create something that could not have existed without their participation.

As we close out 2003 and look at 2004 and the opportunity to realize new potential, let's fully realize that the means to getting there isn't the application of a new word or tag line but instead a fundamental trust in each other, the core products we produce and the people who get bored doing the same old thing.


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