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How Are You Handling Innovation?

As a child, I was always fascinated with innovators and people who looked for ways to do things a little differently. I’ve always bought into the logic that if we keep doing things the way we have in the past, people will go right past us. So when I ask someone why they did something the way they did it, and they give me the “because that is the way it has always been done” answer, I cringe!

So how much time do you and your staff spend on innovation? I attended a meeting a year ago with pension leaders across Canada. I was amazed by the number of pension and benefit organizations that deliberately set aside time for innovation. In one instance, they had asked their staff to earmark 20% of their day/week/month/year to innovation. I understand why Google and other tech companies do this, but when pension and benefit plans step up, that is crazy talk!

To get the innovative juices flowing within our organization last year, we labelled January as “Innovation Month”. We asked each employee (135 in total) to come up with one innovative idea that would improve the way we do business. This could be as simple as developing a spreadsheet for expenses or as complex as building out a wellness initiative for employees. We did not establish a lot of parameters other than any significant financial commitment would need to be approved by senior management. We were a little unsure how it would go, but were blown away by the responses we got. Not only were people excited by the initiative, but there was a buzz in the office about the challenge. People loved that they were being asked for their ideas, and not just management pushing downwards. To add even more excitement to the challenge, anyone who submitted an idea had their name put in a draw for a pair of Rush tickets. In the end, we had more than 250 ideas! One example was the creation of a Green Committee responsible for making our work place more environmentally friendly. To date they have installed green bins, initiated water stations, and sent tips to be greener each week--something I appreciate!

Of course, we ran into a problem. I draw a comparison to the dog that finally catches the car: what do you do now? We have spent much of 2019 sifting through the ideas and seeing which would be feasible. To ease our mandate, we filtered out the ideas based on work units and assigned them accordingly into their budgets, if applicable. I look forward to the changes these ideas will bring to the way we operate!

How are you handling innovation? Don’t wait too long, or you may be passed by a 3-legged chicken…

A man was driving along a freeway when he noticed a chicken running alongside his car. He was amazed to see the chicken keeping up with him because he was doing 50 MPH. He accelerated to 60 and the chicken stayed right next to him. He sped up to 75 MPH and the chicken passed him. The man noticed the chicken had three legs. So, he followed the chicken down the road and ended up at a farm. He got out of his car and saw that all the chickens at the farm had three legs.

He asked the farmer, "What's up with these chickens?"

The farmer said, "Well, everybody likes chicken legs so I bred a three-legged bird. I'm going to be a millionaire."

The man asked him how they tasted.

The farmer said, "Don't know, haven't caught one yet."

Take care, 

Troy (Cool Dad)

Troy Milnthorp is a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, Senior Managing Director of Corporate Fund Services at Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, and Volunteer Content Creator for CPBI Saskatchewan. 

CLICK HERE to learn more about CPBI Saskatchewan!


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