no waste

returnWasted Talents and Ideas

waste8This is the invisible waste that separates the world-class companies from the also runs. It is invisible because if you do not actively encourage your teams to come up with ideas, you will not notice that this waste exists.

I have visited many organisations where I am told variously: "... our managers tell them what to do...", "... we did not hire them for their thinking...", "... our people are not interested in this...". In our current competitive business environment, even the public sector is not safe against the encroachment of market forces. Staying one step ahead of the competition is a fairly good way to "do" sustainability in its original sense - preserving your organisation and keeping it going.

Whatever your organisation does for a living, there is likely to be someone, somewhere, doing it cheaper, faster and perhaps better than you. This can be a rival across town, a factory in China or an IT consultancy in India, basically they are all out to eat your lunch.

Since your rivals, potential or otherwise, read the same management books and hired consultants as knowledgeable as your yours, what is your unique edge? What is it about your organisation that means your customers will come back to you again and again? Don't fool yourself believing that loyalty will protect you. With activist investor and social stakeholders, old loyalties need to be substantiated with real value.

We believe that your only edge, in a world where everyone knows more or less as much as everyone else about efficiency and effectiveness, is how your workforce innovate. This is not necessarily INNOVATION as in changing the world but innovation in terms of continuous improvement and enhancing the way things are done at your organisation.

World class organisations do not worry about visitors asking them how they do this or that, in fact, they invite it. The reason is that they know by the time you figured out what they are doing and applied it to your operations, they are already 6 or 12 months ahead of you. And if they keep on innovating, then the chances of you overtaking them is pretty minimal.

A company that is protective of their procedures is likely to be one that does not necessarily innovate or improve continuously. They have their processes and procedures and they stick to them, so if you managed to copy it, then in their view, they lost their edge. These companies are often the ones who do not like the idea of sharing best practice, in fact, this is usually a good way to spot a company that is not innovative.

So how does talent and ideas fit into this matrix then? Since everyone reads the same books, hire similar consultants and go to similar business schools, the differentiation is in the application. A sustainability initiative or a lean improvement programme can be similar between different companies (and they mostly are, despite what your consultant tells you!). But by inviting your workforce to contribute their ideas and suggestions for improvement, you are introducing a new element that is unique to you: a way of applying the sustainability principles that is made up of your people, your organisation's culture and the way you run your processes. This is something that cannot be copied by your competitors and as you progressively improve on the way you work, then you will gain and very likely sustain a competitive edge over your rivals.

However, the talents and ideas of your workforce is not a self-sustaining resource, we have some suggestions outlined in the techniques areas of this website.



This waste is NOT part of the classic Toyota 7 Wastes, Toyota believes in continuous improvement and encourage their workforce to come up with ideas that improves the way work is done. Adopting this approach means, therefore, Toyota does not have this as a waste.