A culture of innovation

Frank Krejci


Strattec Security Corp.


Creating a culture of innovation isn’t easy, even if a company wants employees to feel free to suggest ideas for improvement. But Frank Krejci, president of Strattec Security Corp., created such a culture at The Custom Shoppe, a furniture company he owns, and he is bringing it to Strattec. Here, he shares some ideas of how to create an environment where workers are free to share their ideas and participate in their implementation:

“How are we leveraging our most important asset, our people? It starts with a culture of we all win together. Besides our defined jobs, we must be continually engaged in thinking about finding a better way.

“Suggestion boxes often only contain two things: dust and gum wrappers. There is no sense of urgency. Delayed action undermines importance.

“Big ideas change the world. Incremental improvement is far more common. Baseball games are won with singles and doubles. Occasional grand slams don’t win many pennants.

“At my wood furniture company in Watertown, The Custom Shoppe, we’ve created an environment where employees are expected and encouraged to submit ideas of how to improve our operations.

“On average, one new idea was implemented for every three submitted. Results came from 130 people creating 450 suggestions annually. We are now raising the bar here at Strattec.

“Here’s how we’re starting:

“Every six months, we ask everyone for two ideas regarding safety, efficiency, new product, quality, a better working environment or anything else. People are allowed and encouraged to submit ideas jointly after brainstorming together. The objective is to identify issues and find better ways. Nobody receives money, gift cards or even their name on the idea. It is part of their responsibility.

“For implementation, it’s easier to prioritize by reviewing all ideas simultaneously. Some ideas don’t make the cut and some don’t work. If an idea doesn’t work, we give employees an explanation of why. After thousands of ideas at The Custom Shoppe, I never had to give an explanation.

“Post ideas in three sections: selected, in progress and completed. Progress is very visible as postings migrate, even if each isn’t read.

“Make creativity an expectation rather than an incremental effort. It’s great to have everyone engaged and proud that they have been heard and made a difference.”

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