How Cowboys & Facility Managers Help Create Innovation in the Workplace

by Elizabeth Dukes on March 24, 2015

Innovation is defined as “the development and implementation of new ideas by people who, over time, engage in transactions with others within an institutional order.” Company culture and the people that comprise your workforce are the two most critical factors influencing innovation in the workplace. Companies who strive to lead in the development of new concepts should take a page from the cowboys’ playbook, valuing the talents and skills of those they are surrounded by.

As the importance of innovative excellence grows, more and more companies are forgoing individual Innovation is born when players with different skills unite to tackle common problems.projects for teams. They are breaking down individual office spaces for huddle rooms and shared desk spaces; all in an effort to spark innovative ideas that will lead to organizational success.

As teamwork becomes a more valued and accepted concept, management is realizing the importance of a widely diverse team of individuals. Let’s go back to the cowboys for a moment. Out on the open range, each cowboy was charged with their individual duties, based on talent and experience. Some cut cattle from the herd, while others roped the cattle, and others branded them. There were other individuals who were charged with feeding the crew, while yet others maintained the equipment. While each cowboy had their own skills, they worked as a team to get the job done and no task was more valued than the other. At the end of the day, they gathered around the campfire and discussed the successes of the day and formulated new processes based on their experiences. Through this team concept, individual barriers were broken and new ideas were born. New, uncharted territories were explored and successes were found. The country we know today was built around this concept.

Companies are faced with a unique opportunity today, as our workforce is comprised of a very diverse group of individuals, much like the Old West cowboys. Each generation brings something unique to the table, based on knowledge gained from their experiences. The initial reaction to these differing views and ideas, was to separate them, seen more as a recipe for conflict than a tool. The reality is, each employee has an opportunity to learn from and teach each other, and that conflict, when moderated correctly, often leads to innovation. Each individual develops, reacts to, and modifies ideas in a very different way. They bring different skill sets and energy levels, based on prior experiences, familial and professional backgrounds, and personal interests. These differences are where the most creative ideas are born.

Consider the definition of invention – “an act of appreciation, which is a complex perceptual process that melds together judgments of reality and judgments of value.” This “new appreciation” is the common problem the team is working together to solve, and should be viewed as an opportunity for success. With a solid team, new ideas will begin to evolve organically, building as the team’s energy grows. Each individual’s skills and experiences will influence the process and are reflected in the final outcome. Behind each team, however, is a powerful leader.

“Within the organization, institutional leadership is critical in creating a cultural context that fosters innovation, and in establishing organizational strategy, structure, and systems that facilitate innovation.” –Andrew H. Van de Ven

Thus, the Facility Manager’s role is to help develop and maintain a workplace culture that is inspiring and supports the concept of growth and innovation. “This type of leadership offers a vision of what could be and gives a sense of purpose and meaning to those who would share that vision. It builds commitment, enthusiasm, and excitement. It creates a hope in the future and a belief that the world is knowable, understandable, and manageable. The collective energy that transforming leadership generates, empowers those who participate in the process. There is hope, there is optimism, there is energy.” Roberts N.,” Transforming Leadership: Sources, Process, Consequences” This type of leadership begins with developing a workplace culture that is indicative of organizational goals. It uses the past to help define the future, clearly defines the mission of the organization, and challenges the workforce to think outside the box.

We are fortunate in that we live and work in a time where the sky is the limit. For those who surround themselves with the right people and the proper tools, the workspace is wide open, limited only by our imagination. Like our predecessors, our successes are defined by a commitment to the cause, the courage to enter uncharted territory, and dedication to our team. Together, FMs and their teams are writing their own page in the history books.


Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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