bulbHow does a firm become more creative in its quest to secure employees to keep its ideas fresh and the company nimble, able to change as the market evolves and advance to remain competitive in its market sector?  Dr. Martha Gottschalk approached this question in her article “The Catch 22 of Organizational Structure, Talent and Innovation.”  She presents techniques that capture the trend of crowdsourcing to form teams with a fresh look at a business’s systematic traditions that could mire an enterprise in a rut, thus making it unable to capture new ideas which can positively evolve the organization.  She suggests implementing techniques that go outside of an organization to attract talent necessary for specific projects.  Her ideas are to use thinkers and contributors outside to creatively approach problems inside.

Dr. Gottschalk believes that businesses need to extend the “virtual walls of the organization.”  One suggestion is to use a business’s established industry contacts to find employees which would creatively contribute to a project’s development.  Another idea she gives is accessing the talent community that individual employees have developed themselves.  This is a good point, graphic designers tend to have a friendship and professional circle of other graphic designers, so why not use those circles to find temporary talent that reliable employees suggest.  Her third point is to use crowdsourcing platforms to gather employees. For instance, innocentive.com lists projects and ideas that non-profits or individuals have for developing new programs to address global health, environment, and education issues.  Her points are to go outside of an organization to elicit ideas and talent to solve “thinking barriers”.

However there is a magic fertile soil that companies tend to overlook – the existing workforce.   You just need to create a balanced and harmonious environment in the company and you open up yourself for numerous proven techniques for accessing new ideas. Take for one this very simple technique – spontaneous conversations and idea exchanges that occur when all types of employees meet in the public spaces of an organization.  You can call it the “water cooler ah-ha moments.”  And, there is plenty of research to support it.

There are businesses that successfully implement the idea of spontaneous meetings of employees in a business’s public spaces such as the vending area and the cafeteria.  Apple is consistently listed as one of the top innovative companies in the world.  The vending machines are all in the same lobby, as well as the restrooms.  You can’t go down your department’s hall to fetch a candy bar, you go to where everyone, from the intern to the shipping clerk to the upper-management, goes to fetch their candy bars. The spontaneous meeting of people who would never meet through Apple’s hierarchical structures taps the power of “crowdsourced ideas”.  Also, by keeping your public space inside the employee space of your company solves the problem that going outside your company can create, namely holding on to proprietary information.  Your employees and your business can access a talent community as everyone does with the people they spend time with, but your company’s projects remain within the walls.  In fact, Apple has a strict non-disclosure clause that all employees must adhere to.

By unveiling each employee’s ability to contribute to the company’s conversation regardless of rank extends the “virtual walls” of your organization by absolving the walls within.