Your credit union is sprinkled with bright, empowered, innovative people known as Rudolphs (so named after the holiday character Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) because they can shine the light exactly where the organization needs to go.
These people have always been important, according to “The Red-Nosed Revolution: Five Ways to Find and Empower the ‘Rudolphs’ Who Can Save Your Company.” But during tough economic times, these people are more crucial than ever.
That’s because Rudolphs connect the dots that others don't see. Because they tend to identify causes of problems (rather than symptoms), they generate sustainable solutions more quickly and efficiently than their counterparts.
In finding these crucial individuals, nurturing them, and putting their ideas to work, you achieve consistently higher levels of innovation—and thrive in every economy.
Following are some of the book's insights on creating a culture of Rudolph-friendly innovation at your credit union:
The old—yet still prevalent—command-and-control style of management is antithetical to environments that nurture Rudolphs. To elicit and nurture innovative thinking requires as much from leaders as it does from employees.
Leaders must be more participative than autocratic, treat all employees as business partners regardless of their titles, remove barriers, and provide resources for people to be successful. Once you give up your illusion of control, more ideas will percolate from the ground up.
When you're seeking to change your culture, think “participative,” not “imposed from above.”
“The Red-Nosed Revolution” describes Boeing Corp.’s “psychology of change” model--AVTAR:
* Awareness. Generate awareness of a proposed change.
* Value. Share information that inspires employees to find value in a proposed change. Until employees recognize the value in the proposed change, you can't go to the next step. Otherwise you'd be imposing change—the antithesis of creating a Rudolph culture.
* Thinking. Employees begin to bear the burden of responsibility for the proposed change. This shift in thinking requires managers to let go of their own agendas and employees to ask questions reflecting their new awareness.
* Actions. In this stage, responsibility has mostly shifted to employees. New actions and behaviors begin to appear based on new ways of thinking.
* Results. Results flow organically, a natural outcome of the shift in thinking and new actions and behaviors, not enforced by rewards and punishment.
Next: Recognize Rudolphs
Here’s a clue: They're often labeled square pegs, radicals, misfits, loose cannons, zealots, or innovators.
And while their "Rudolphness" may differ based on context, circumstance, and environment, one constant for all Rudolphs is that they can’t help but spend time involuntarily thinking about the things they’re most passionate about, acquiring the capabilities to manifest their thoughts into reality, and taking action.
Rudolphs aren’t like other employees. They have unique needs, including:
* An outlet to share ideas regularly;
* Protection from their direct manager and ill-willed peers (because Rudolphs often are seen as a threat);
* Permission to take risks and share unconventional ideas;
* Access to collaborative teams that include non-Rudolphs; and
* The ability to execute their ideas—but not in a haphazard fashion.
Rudolph cultures draw creativity and innovation from employees, and that requires more than the old-fashioned "suggestion box" program.
Boeing's Creative Edge Program, for example, paid employees for their cost-saving ideas. In return, employees have generated more than $90 million with their ideas during the past decade and continue to aid the bottom line significantly.
"The Rudolph Factor: Finding the Bright Lights that Drive Innovation in Your Business" (Wiley, July 2009, ISBN: 978-04704510-3-8, $21.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, or by calling 800-225-5945.