Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 13th 2017 Contents APRIL 13 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
VERBATIM | BG11
Are you killing innovation?
t may come as a shock to you that the number one
barrier to innovation in your organisation could be
you: the boss.
If your staff were to draw the “informal organisa-
tion chart” for your company and you find yourself
on the top of the chart marked “chief idea killer”
instead of CEO, then you probably are killing innovation in
We in T&T are a vibrant and innovative people. Just our
carnival culture is a testament to that fact. If only we are able to
bring that innovative culture into our workplace, we could be
more competitive and able to work our way out of the current
slump. Some companies are doing just that even now and we
will spotlight one of them here.
But first, let’s take one element of the Carnival—the steel
pan culture—and see what we can learn about innovation and
how we can apply it in our work place.
If you go back in history and see how the steel pan movement
evolved, you will recall how the people felt oppressed following
the Canboulay Riots in 1881, when authorities banned stick
fighting and percussion music and suppressed their musical
In 1937, their creativity eventually found an outlet through
the birth of the steel pan when an orchestra of frying pans,
dustbins and oil drum was formed in Laventille.
Today, steel pan is celebrated as one of the most innovative
musical instruments, and people from all over the world make
a bee-line to Trinidad every year to play in Panorama.
The stimulus for this innovation, ironically, came from the
oppression of natural self-expression of the people. It lit a
fire in people to find an outlet for their musical expression.
Innovation happened out of human necessity. When people
are stifled from expressing themselves in one form or the oth-
er, they will find other avenues for finding their expression.
Similarly, if an organisation stifles the innovative spirit of its
employees, they will find an alternate avenue, outside of the
organisation to express their creativity and innovation. This
may perhaps explain why so many young men and women
in our society find an outlet in pan yards, in calypso tents,
in the arts and in their communities, instead of in their own
Sometimes the stimulus comes from an external force, as
in the case of the steel pan. Other times we may have to create
our own stimulus, our own “burning platform”, if you may, in
order for people to get creative and innovative. There could
be no better time than the current economic climate for us to
get innovative in our work environment. Because, for some
companies, it is an existential threat.
Arbitrary rules, or red tape, as they are called, create an enor-
mous barrier to innovation. The most dangerous seven words
in business is “we have always done it this way”. Predisposition
to maintaining status-quo is the antithesis of innovation.
Innovative people find a way to break arbitrary rules in order
When Tesla came out with their first all-electric car, people
in Detroit derided it because it was not a car made in Detroit
according to their standards. However, last year, when Tesla
announced that they were going to launch their Model 3 at
$35,000, more than 400,000 cars were pre-ordered within
weeks, even though the car is not expected to be delivered until
end of 2017. If a company or industry attempts to maintain
status quo for too long, some outsider is going to come and
disrupt the industry in ways that you never imagined.
Don’t let your arbitrary rules prevent you from seeing the
future, or seal your fate.
If ideas and suggestions are constantly turned down by
the bosses, employees will eventually lose their interest and
self-confidence to come up with new, innovative ideas.
In order for a company and its people to gain self-confi-
dence in innovation, they have to try and succeed in small,
One of the companies that has managed to do just that over
the years is the Label House Group Ltd in Trinidad.
Located in Frederick Settlement Industrial Estate, Caroni,
this company is a leading supplier of packaging solutions to
the Caribbean and Central America markets. Over the past 40
years, they have won many awards and has been exporting to
over 25 countries, servicing a number of industries.
At the Eighth Americas Competitiveness Forum in 2014,
Kieron Swift of the Council for Competitiveness and Inno-
vation presented a paper titled Four Innovative Companies of
T&T where he highlighted how Label House seeks innovation
in what it does. It does not have a department dedicated to
innovation or R&D in the traditional sense. Instead they drive
innovation through business development.
According to Swift, “That department takes into consid-
eration new markets and new products, and the associated
research needed to develop those two areas. They do not have
a fixed R&D budget. They take business development as the
growth engine of the company, and they look at (innovation)
in terms of the market and/or products.”
What lessons can we learn from our own steel pan movement,
and other examples above, in order to reinvigorate innovation
in our own companies?
No 1: Innovation requires stimulus. And if the stimulus is
not found inside the company your people will seek it outside.
No 2: Arbitrary rules stifle innovation. Look carefully at your
organisational policies and see if there are archaic ones that
are stifling innovation.
No 3: Innovation requires self-confidence. Whenever you
see someone trying to do something different that could be
beneficial to the organisation encourage them and support
them. Even if they fail trying.
Inspire innovation in your company culture to create com-
petitive advantage and long-term growth.
© All rights reserved. For more information on Crestcom visit
www.crestcomleadership.com/tt or email leadersaremade@
crestcom.com or call 684-0728.
Links Archive April 12th 2017 April 14th 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page