Monday, November 14th, 2016
Can innovation occur without market motivation? Yes, if companies allow their employees to experiment without fear of repercussions for failed explorations. Soren Kaplan, of USC’s Center for Effective Organization describes most market-driven corporate visions:
“Become the number one provider of blah, blah, blah. These generic, broad-based goals might rev up sales teams, but they do little to spark ingenuity.“
In other words, when sales is the sole emphasis of a company, engineering and design are left behind, leading to a lack of innovation.
To encourage ingenuity, companies must create a culture of innovation from the top down. In the best-case scenario, the bulk of activity – planning, sales, engineering, manufacturing – all take place in one building. To maximize sharing of ideas, the top person, the president or CEO, must be accessible to the new hire on the assembly line. Engineers and sales people should be able to interact freely with each other to suggest improvements. Machinists should be able to confer with the R&D team regarding better ways to fabricate parts. Further, the company should encourage future-thinking experimentation by designers.
Lumitec, a leading international LED lighting manufacturer, fits this description. Named to INC Magazine’s “500 Fastest Growing Companies” in 2012 and their INC 5000 list for the last 4 consecutive years, Lumitec credits its culture of innovation for its success. As with any successful company, the impetus starts at the top.“
John Kujawa, Lumitec’s president, is the spark behind Lumitec’s achievements. An avid boater and engineer, Kujawa has a natural knack for tinkering and improving things. He understands that most innovation does not come from following a certain segment of the market, but from looking at a product and finding a way to improve it. The market will respond to innovation. Mick McDonald, Lumitec’s Marketing Manager, describes Kujawa as “… an engineer at heart who lives and breathes the mechanics of everything. This, paired with his avid love for boating, created the perfect storm for him to see a niche in the market at the advent of LED technology going mainstream.” This forward thinking approach has made Lumitec the one of the fastest-growing manufacturing companies in the U.S. and a supplier of LED lighting to over 200 boat manufacturers, including Intrepid Powerboats, Viking Yachts, and Boston Whaler.
Kujawa’s propensity for innovation and improvement is evident in Lumitec’s iconoclastic corporate culture. Pairing the brightest engineers with a state of the art manufacturing facility in Florida, Kujawa provides his engineers with the space and freedom to experiment with new ideas. Called “play,” this experimentation often results in ideas that never make it to market. To Kujawa, a few failed experiments are not just expected, but necessary for the development of new technology.
Kujawa has opted for an “open structure” form of internal organization. Because all of the important activities are under one roof in an open-door system, assemblers can freely speak to designers to work out problems or suggest improvements. Likewise, salespeople have no qualms about sharing ideas with the people in Production. This crossing of lines in the hierarchy can naturally lead to creating a community of cooperative imagination. No doors are closed to employee interaction. In fact, a central conference room, called the Mosh Pit, is glass walled so that everyone can see what is going on. This unique room, combined with open workspaces instead of offices and enclosed cubicles, accelerates idea sharing and collaboration and leads to innovation that otherwise might not have occurred. Customers who visit the facility are pleased to find that the design team is in close communication with every department involved in the manufacturing process.
Furthermore, the company plans meetings outside of the workplace – fresh environments like beaches, go-kart tracks, and even pinball competitions – where self-critiquing takes place and everyone can offer ideas about how to improve the company and its products. The “Team Lumitec” atmosphere of communication is further promoted by Kujawa, who regularly eats lunch in the lunch area alongside his employees.
With a president at the helm who is always open to ideas and suggestions and a design team that is encouraged to innovate, it’s no wonder that Lumitec is the leader in LED technology for marine applications. While Lumitec’s products are not always the cheapest, they are widely accepted as class-leading for their advanced features, higher outputs, remarkable reliability, and ease of installation.
Want to know more about Lumitec’s lighting solutions and how their innovation can dramatically improve your lighting needs? Visit online at lumiteclighting.com.