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The Innovator’s Field Guide: Change the World, One Idea at a Time

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by Jeff Standridge

“I like to say that the one thing that all people who succeed in changing the world have in common is that they at least tried.” -Kevin Systrom

The fourth employee hired by a company is rarely the person recognized for having a world-changing idea. The headlines are rife with a successful company’s founder. For example, we know IKEA was started by Ingvar Kamprad. The brand revolutionized home furnishings by selling flat-pack, or assemble-it-yourself, furniture. There are anecdotes galore about the man, now known as one of the world’s richest people. One of the most memorable is Ingvar’s father complaining about his being a late riser, so Ingvar set an alarm clock and removed the “off ” button. He’s also famously cheap and commonly stays in affordable hotels when traveling. One anecdote you won’t hear much about Ingvar Kamprad is the day he had the epiphany for flat-pack furniture. That story is IKEA’s fourth employee, Gillis Lundgren’s, to tell.

When Lundgren started at IKEA, the company sold mail-order, fully assembled furnishings. One night in 1956, Lundgren bought a new table. Try as he may, Lundgren could not get the table to fit in his car. There was no other way to get his new acquisition home short of taking the legs off, so out came a saw. As the sawdust piled around Lundgren’s feet, he undoubtedly considered how he was going to reassemble the table when he returned home. That’s when it hit him. What if IKEA designed and sold furniture that the consumer assembled at home? IKEA’s shipping and production costs would plummet, and no one would ever be faced with sawing off table legs ever again. Ingvar Kamprad loved the idea and today, you can’t throw a tennis ball in a Walmart or Costco without hitting a piece of flat-packed furniture.

It doesn’t matter if you’re the fourth, or ninety-fourth, employee hired by a company. You can still change the world by implementing better ways of doing what you already do.

Change the World, One Idea at a Time: Accelerators

How much better would your business, organization, or work area be if everyone came up with one massive improvement to the way you currently do things?

  • Get your team on board by holding a contest for the top one, three, or five idea(s) for making massive improvements to the work you already do.
  • Establish a prize and let everyone on the team vote for the winner(s).
  • Once you have the top improvements identified, launch an implementation team for each improvement and appoint the winner as the Team Leader.

READ MORE: The Innovator’s Field Guide: Gaining Wisdom

Jeff Standridge

Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author ofThe Innovator’s Field GuideandThe Top Performer’s Field Guide.”  He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas.  Jeff spends the vast majority of his time helping organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at JeffStandridge.com.

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