Using Shukko to Improve Innovation

Innovation is often seen as very process-driven, systems-driven, and these are often vital elements. If you don’t have a systematic way to innovate, the risk is that pockets of different practice spread up across the organisation, but they might not be shared. So, the teams and work groups that are successfully innovating, doing things differently, need to share them. It means being generous. It means walking over to other teams and saying “I can help”, and probably best done face to face or via a phone call, or skype. Resist the immediate call to email, as you may simply be adding to overload and your offer of help may not be heard!

Recently, I was talking to a major international public service organisation, and heard about their systematic approach to innovation, based on lean. Lean methods are indeed very good, but this organisation has problems with getting people on board. So, one solution is to give those who are on-board allocated time, to talk to the sceptics, those who are a bit worried in those other teams about this new “system”. Even better, why not try secondment, or working with a different team for an extended time? Don’t you just love the sound of the Japanese words in continuous improvement? – the word “shukko” refers to transferring staff temporarily to another organisation, often say a supplier, but it can be adapted to transferring internally.

Key is the element of learning; not just transferring because the other team, or department, is short of staff, but because we want to share ideas between the two teams involved. Often the person who comes back from the other team is full of ideas, and keen to share them, so you need, as a manager, to find space and time to really listen. How often have you heard managers say “we do things differently here” as a means of saying “don’t worry about those other folks, knuckle down to you work here”? If you want departments to work better together, then shukko can surely help.

As an organisation, do you measure or assess the benefits of shukko, or similar practices? Could you publish some learning stories of how a staff member went to see how things were in another teams and came back with ideas which were then creatively adapted by his/her home team?

Give it a go, whether or not you use Japanese words! You could make shukko part of your “system”.


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