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Innovation Should Not Be Limited To The C-Suite

June 01, 2016

When I took over as CEO of VSP Global, the company had just turned 60. VSP had kept up with a tremendous amount of change over the decades. Economies evolve. Technology disrupts, and in some cases, companies can’t keep up and fade into the background. Thankfully, we kept up and have continued reimagining the eye care experience. Much of our success is due to tapping into the spirit of innovation that is found within our organization from employees at all levels.  

Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk…the list of the world’s greatest innovators is full of household names. There’s no denying the impact of these ‘rock star’ innovators, but behind each of them is often a large team whose contributions – even if small – were essential to the final product. 

To be frank, the most innovative ideas don’t always come from an executive’s office. They are born from the experience of employees who are on the front lines, serving customers, solving problems, and grinding every day to find a better way. As a global organization, we’re fortunate to have thousands of talented employees across different countries and cultures that bring us a diverse mix of ideas and perspectives on how to do things not only differently, but better. 

I am constantly amazed not only at the desire of our employees to innovate, but the ability to make their ideas a reality. Recently, an employee I didn’t know personally, approached me in passing to pitch a quick idea. The idea had nothing to do with the employee’s job. It was an idea sparked through a personal hobby. The idea was thoughtful, relevant to our business, and one that we decided to pursue. 

We are harnessing this type of traditionally untapped potential through a rotation program at our innovation lab, The Shop. The program gives employees the opportunity to step away from their ‘day job’ for 90 days and work on a project designed to identify possible disruptors for our industry and solutions to these problems. Anyone can apply, including entry level employees. We created this program to empower all employees to take risks and experiment. We don’t want this experience limited to the c-suite. 

As we look ahead at the next 60 years, we see a road filled with unexpected turns. We are taking many steps to prepare ourselves for the changes ahead, including harnessing the full potential of our employees. By empowering employees at all levels of our company to take risks and experiment, we anticipate that we will be better prepared for the changes to come.

 

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