Robots…3D printers…faster, cleaner, wider distribution of data…unexpected uses of scanning technology…
As we develop a culture to support "continuous, intentional innovation"— in the distribution center and across the supply chain — these are some of the ideas our associates have brought forward.
The ideas have been great. The engagement has been great. But one of the most important ideas is that logistics innovations are not quite as accidental as we might hope. If we are going to be innovative, we have to be intentional about it. We have to identify a destination on the far away horizon and constantly make course adjustments to aim for logistics innovations that support our clients' business objectives.
At KANE, that intentionality has included teaching supervisors how to engage associates in discussions that are sometimes unexpected, sometimes a bit uncomfortable, but almost always rewarding.
"What do you think about this process?"
"What is wrong with how we do this?"
"How can we help you make our company and our clients better?"
Supervisors have to be supported in breaking down the "thinking vs. doing" distinctions that are somewhat second nature for some leaders.
We are supporting a new habit of engaging associates in problem solving instead of simply delivering the answer. As supervisors feel more comfortable in that role, the benefits are huge. Associates are getting more connected to business outcomes. They are contributing more and thinking more about how we work together as a team.
Sometimes, logistics innovations are a matter of chance, but as one author has now famously reported, "Chance favors a connected mind..." So we are finding new ways to connect to our associates, our business partners, our clients, and other stakeholders.
But here is the first step: stop theorizing and go out and actually talk with associates. Leaders must be willing to take risks. They have to be intentional and ask the fundamental question..."How can we do better?"
Then – stop talking and really listen!