Change for the Better.

It's not as hard as you think.

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According to a recent article by, each year, over 80% of Fortune 100 companies conduct hackathons to drive innovation. These one-off occurring events take place in hopes of driving crowdsourcing of breakthrough ideas for a specific pre-defined problem or to innovate.

Hackathons do not always drive innovation the way an organization may hope because often, the parameters set forth will prohibit the creativity process needed to come up with breakthrough ideas. Creativity and innovation, in its’ purest form, are connecting existing information and ideas in a new way. For a company to continuously innovate, they must be set up from an organizational standpoint to allow the full innovation process to take place, every day.

“But we have always done it this way.”

KPMG recently took a deep dive into corporate innovation and found that 43 percent of innovation-related programs have fewer than ten full-time equivalents dedicated to them. Furthermore, “company culture or entrenched attitudes” was one of the top obstacles cited by innovators in this year’s Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020 study. Culture wars flare up when a department learns about a new idea the innovation team is working on because they were not brought in from the start. Too often, companies do not have the proper systems in place to support new ways of doing business and innovation will fall wayside. Support from leadership is critical for innovation teams to succeed and cut through the turf wars and the “we have always done it this way” comfort zone mentality. For a company to win, innovation must be rewarded, not hindered.

Kaizen: Change for the Better

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means “change for the better.”  Toyota is a classic example of Kaizen. Kaizen is one of the core principles of The Toyota Production System, a quest for continuous improvement and a single word that sums up Toyota’s ‘Always a Better Way’ slogan. Within the Toyota Production System, “Kaizen humanizes the workplace, empowering individual members to identify areas for improvement and suggest practical solutions.”

I had the opportunity to learn the Kaizen mindset first hand while working with one of our existing clients, UAW-GM, during my tenure at HA-LO, Creative Concepts in Marketing. So what does a promotional products company have to do with continuous improvement? Absolutely everything. 

“Champions are pioneers, and pioneers get shot at. The companies that get the most from champions, therefore, are those that have rich support network so their pioneers will flourish.” – Tom Peters

UAW-GM did away with the notion “we have always done it this way” by launching a program called the “UAW-GM Suggestions Program” in which General Motors employees in North America are not only encouraged, they are rewarded for challenging the status quo by submitting suggestions that drive operational efficiency, health, and safety within the plants. A suggestion can be submitted on a paper form or through the electronic system, GoStars. Often times, the ideas submitted not only get evaluated, but they also got implemented because they remove waste, solve a problem or give an improvement in an existing process. The employees who submitted a “suggestion” were then recognized with points that could be “cashed” in for a reward such as fine china, luggage, high-end jewelry, all union-American made, of course, sourced by my team and me at HA-LO Creative Concepts in Marketing. 

The simplicity of this program was brilliant. It effectively broke down the “we have always done it this way” mentality by rewarding people who broke the status quo.

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