Chain of Command vs. Flattened Organizational Structure

One of the reasons that people love a crowdsourced innovation program is that it levels the playing field for ideas. Yes, the CEO or Commander might have the best idea, but maybe the most transformative ideas can come from someone who just joined the company or someone working on the front lines of the organization far from the top. Crowdsourced innovation allows you to transparently prove and communicate the value of an idea no matter where it comes from.

Perhaps the place this value is most keenly felt is in the military or other traditionally-stratified organizations where chain of command is absolutely imperative. IdeaScale has worked with a number of organizations like this, including the United States Coast Guard, New York City Police Department, and other departments around the world. What many of these organizations report is that although chain of command is very powerful for keeping forces organized and united (particularly in chaotic situations), it also stifles innovation since ideas need to climb a tall and formidable ladder. These ladders are very often siloed (by geography, discipline, or otherwise) and are often concerned with de-risking new ideas rather than disseminating them – a common innovator’s dilemma – so instituting a crowdsourced innovation program can be transformative as even incremental improvements can be transformative at scale. So how do you marry the value of chain of command with a flattened organizational structure?

At the 2018 Open Nation, Queensland Police spoke to this very challenge and told us that it is possible to flatten an organization for innovative ideas, but maintain chain of command when necessary. Charmaine Meiklejohn stated that she knows when she calls on the police to respond to her request, she knows that chain of command is in place, but when it comes to innovation or new ideas then there’s no need to funnel ideas through those channels and that change in organization has been hugely empowering.

To learn how the Queensland Police can maintain both of these structures in a single organization, register for our Ideas Connecting Our People December 4th webinar.  Registrants will receive a link to the video recording of the webinar and attendees will have the chance to ask questions in a live Q&A. See you there!

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