I refer to being a junkie in jest, but at our company we compulsively seek out innovation. It also consistently finds us. Inspiring ideas and getting innovation to happen are difficult. They require providing a safe place to share ideas where you know you won’t be criticized for an idea or failure.
Gathering it all in
The first challenge, and the key to making all this work is, to first, care. People can tell if you care about what they’re saying, or if you’re just pacifying them. The people we work with know we truly care about ideas, and we love coming up with new solutions. They want to help and also see the idea in action.
Our ideas are generated from our team, customers, competitors and vendors. We proactively talk to our team members. On Fridays we have breakfast together, and we have quarterly meetings with breakout sessions where we tap into everyone’s good ideas.
You never know where the next great idea is going to come from. It could be one of our line workers or someone in shipping. Although we have a brilliant R&D department, it’s productive to have diverse perspectives and as many ideas as possible.
We have organically set up a system and culture where everyone wants to share their ideas. We make solutions for engines across multiple markets — from automotive, heavy duty transportation to agriculture and construction. For example, truck drivers from all over tell us what problems they’re having and how we might solve them. Engaging them gives us insight into the next generation of solutions.
It doesn’t stop there. We’ve received great ideas from race car drivers and engine builders, and the list goes on. It proves we’ve reinforced the idea that we care enough to listen.
We also talk to the large chemical companies to see what they are working on. They love companies like ours because we take their technologies and use them. Often, they feel frustrated because nothing gets done in large bureaucracies, so they look for small, innovative companies to see their work put to use.
Filter, test and scale
The second challenge is to find the gold. Almost all the ideas are good. Some are crazy big ideas that will take years to make happen. Some are great ideas that we can act on today. Some are good ideas that springboard to a great idea. You must find a way to filter and prioritize the ideas and make them actionable.
The third challenge is to find a way to test ideas and scale the good ones.
At Lubrication Specialties, we take the idea and start testing on a low level to see if it has legs. Once we see success, we start putting more money behind it until it either hits failure mode or expands into a full-scale solution.
We’re small, nimble and high-performing, which provides us an advantage to executing great innovative ideas. And, when everybody in your circle knows you are an innovation junkie, you will have more ideas than you can possibly act on.
Chris Gabrelcik is the founder of Lubrication Specialties Inc. specializes in hard-to-handle lubrication areas. The company’s flagship product, Hot Shot’s Secret Stiction Eliminator, was developed to resolve an injector issue on the Ford Power Stroke 6.0 liter engine and is now used regularly by millions of truckers and diesel truck owners. Chris is not only a self-described chief innovation junkie, he’s a 2019 Columbus Smart 50 honoree and the Innovation award winner.