Innovation as a choice
Friday, September 14, 2012 at 11:39AM
Steve in Conferences, Technology, conferences, health care, innovation, innovation

I'm just back from Taleo World 2012, (ok, I admit to being a little biased, but it was a tremendous event), and wanted to share a short bit of wisdom from one of the concurrent sessions I attended, given by WellPoint, one of the largest health benefits companies in the United States. With over 37,000 employees operating in a highly-regulated industry and with the added complexity of operating via numerous subsidiary companies, WellPoint is a classic example of the kind of large corporate environment many of us work in or have been a part of at some point in our careers.Taleo World 2012

And what are some of the things that come to mind when thinking about working in really large, complex organizations?  

We generally think of these corporate giants as lacking agility, with dense and difficult to traverse organization structures, a lack of drive and urgency, and at times the tendency to get consumed by process, entrenched ways of thinking, and lots of 'Not invented here' syndrome that taken together can slow or even halt innovative ideas of transformational projects even before they begin.

While it is certainly true that as organizations get larger and more complex in structure additional rules, policies, and sometimes bureaucracies have to emerge to simply manage the processes associated with organizing that many people, across that many locations, and operating under numerous and evolving external forces and requirements, the smartest of these large organizations are not letting size, complexity and inertia impede their ability to adapt, improve, and innovate.

And while their are reams of books, articles, seminars, and big thinkers all focused on the subject of innovation, still for large organizations, fostering innovation can be really, really hard - maybe even impossible. But during WellPoint's presentation about their purposeful and aggressive approach to reinventing their Talent Management processes, they offered one of the clearest and simplest ways to get past those legacy or inherent barriers to innovation.

Simply put, they decided to be innovative. 

The specific mantra their Talent Management team adopted was 'We can sit and wait, or we can choose to innovate.'

Sure it's basic. Sure it even sounds a little naive. And yes, no one can really effect significant change by simply making a choice, but the choice itself is the start. 

The choice to innovate becomes a conscious one that can support all the difficult decisions that have to be made in order to effect change at large organizations like WellPoint. The choice allows you, even empowers you to think about the big picture and the real reasons and benefits for the hard work you are doing. 

The choice enables you to start to let go of the organizational baggage that often has to be dragged along with you on every new project.

In another Taleo World presentation, Bertrand Dussert mentioned a fantastic quote from Roger Enrico -

"Beware the tyranny of making small changes to small things."

WellPoint's 'choice' and the Enrico quote both remind us of the importance of thinking big, not allowing the past to be a barrier to progress, and that often a simple change in mindset can be the beginning of a fantastic journey, even in the largest and most seemingly resistant to change environments.

Thanks to everyone at Taleo World for what was a superb and inspiring event.

Have a Great Weekend!

Article originally appeared on Steve's HR Technology (
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