Nourishing innovation (Part 1)

Ask any innovation leader to name his or her top three goals and you’ll find “creating a culture of innovation” on that list.

Innovation leaders tackle this through a variety of initiatives. This is one of my favorite areas to work on because it can really test your creative skills and powers of observation to identify things that will help your business.

One way to foster that culture is by improving the environment for employees. Businesses today are moving toward more innovative workspaces, and yet they’re still missing something big: Whatever happened to the corporate cafeteria and kitchens around our workspaces?

As someone who really enjoys his food, I’ve observed such spaces in the context of how they help people work. And some are just nightmares. Do you see yours here? Can you think of others?

Chips and chips

80’s British Transport Cafeteria Not a salad in sight, just safe staple foods from the past, offered every day of the week with no variation. Choose from likes of sausages, beans and chips, lasagna beans and chips, pie, beans and chips and chips, Spam, chips and chips (any Monty Python fans out there?).

Groundhog Day diner

Groundhog Day Diner Each day is a new menu. Stay another week and you soon find that there is only one menu! You can literally hear Sonny and Cher singing.

Hobson's Choice

Hobson’s Choice Café This is a special café where they only serve one hot dish each day, which is fine in the summer and you can hit the salad bar but when there is snow outside in Punxsutawney (sorry, still with Bill Murray) – you’re stuck!

Mystery Meat

Mystery Meat Restaurant We’ve all been there. What we ordered and what’s sitting on our plate has unknown origins. Even with CSI Miami on the case we’d struggle to break down the DNA and identify where this meat came from. Be doubly worried if your contract caterer also supplies pet food!

Cafeteria food

Back to the Future High School Cafeteria Remember those plastic trays, plastic beakers, and knives that could barely cut a tomato? Am I old enough to be trusted with a real plate and a glass to drink out of? I’m all for efficiency but I feel trapped in Sunnydale High with Marty McFly - trying to get Back to the Future.

When you engage employees on how to improve their physical environment, you’ll find this can be a hot topic that people at all levels will care about. It’s also a great opportunity to create something of value for any long-term innovation culture change initiative.

But more on that tomorrow.