Case studies are a great way to teach individuals and businesses about innovation. Innovation illustrations show a special example of enterprise innovation, but it is possible to generalize and apply many companies in various markets. The following example describes innovation as an efficient business operation and reduces costs.
The law firm regularly registered documents with a government agency in a first-class mail. Each mail would include a postcard stamped and directed to a lawyer on one side and had a custom list of the documents in the mail on the opposite side of the postcard. Once the documents were received by the government, it would date-stamp the postcard and send it back to the law firm. The postcard was a receipt that the documents were received by the agency.
The law firm had an internal procedure requiring each postcard to be stored in a physical file containing the documents submitted to the state agency. These physical records were also regularly used by lawyers and support staff at the law firm. Management members spend a considerable amount of time each week and try to find physical files to post a returned postcard. This approach was not only time consuming, but very disruptive for lawyers because managers of employees would interfere with lawyers while searching for files. When physical files could not be found, email messages and further disturbances were resolved.
Meeting to discuss how to reduce the distortion caused by postcards changed this internal procedure. Because the postcards were rarely used after they were received by the law firm, there was no reason to store them in physical files. Instead, a card box was used to store the postcard for future access, if necessary. Thus, received postcards were still kept, but a costly and disruptive method of submitting postcards to physical files was deleted. This change saves many hours of employee time each day and significantly reduces the disruption of other employees.
Many companies have similar internal procedures that can be modified or eliminated to reduce costs and increase productivity. This parable shows that even minor changes in internal procedures can significantly reduce operating costs and simplify business. Look at your own business and try to use your internal procedures. Look at the overall objectives of the procedures and determine whether all the steps in that procedure are necessary to achieve that goal.