Innovation – 24 Hours of Undiluted Autonomy 

by Onyeka Nchege on May 18, 2016

Workplace Innovation concept on the gearwheelsWe often find ourselves saying, “If only I had the time, I’d fix this!” Though we create work-arounds for those items, or find ways to cope, we rarely take the time to implement true solutions to drive long-term change. This isn’t always as simple as it seems, but it’s important for any successful team to focus less on talking about problems, and more on thinking about and implementing solutions. Can this be done in the midst of everything competing for that precious commodity called time? What if we paused for 24 hours and attended to the neglected? What could we accomplish?

True leaders know the key to success is to empower those around them. As leaders, it is our job to help team members find their voices, identify opportunities for growth and build the confidence for them to change. Recently, our team took time out of the traditional workday and joined together to find solutions for the things that cost us time. We called it the IT@IB Innovation Day (One Day of Undiluted Autonomy). In order to make the most of this opportunity for change, we chose to execute our plan in the following phases:

Phase I: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.  First, we looked at our daily work routines and individually identified one thing that – if eliminated, solved or shortened – would improve our daily productivity and efficiency levels. There were no boundaries, just a collaborative environment encouraging the free flow of information. It didn’t take long for the more than 70 IT@IB team members to build a list of 20-30 items, and once we had that list, we were ready to focus our efforts on the task at hand, finding solutions.

Phase II: If opportunity doesn’t knock, go build a door. At Innovation Day, those same team members got the necessary people together in smaller groups to brainstorm solutions for the areas of improvement they recently identified. Then, those groups worked collaboratively on how to develop and implement those solutions into their workdays. 

Phase III: Actions speak louder than words.  In the workplace, plans are only as strong as the resources used to carry them through, and following Innovation Day, teams presented their innovations to the leadership team. Of the 20 or so ideas presented, several of them have already been implemented. One of those ideas, for example, came from two team members who were tasked with tracking down errors in URLs from customers. It was a tedious, manual task that took tremendous amounts of time. On Innovation Day, the team came up with an automated process to manage this task, and as a result, each team member re-gained roughly 5-10 hours of previously occupied time for the month.

The inaugural IT@IB Innovation Day was so impactful that – at the request of our team – we’ve already scheduled another one for July. Where there’s value, there’s opportunity, and our team walked away from this experience feeling refreshed and inspired to continue to drive change. Empowering your team members to implement solutions welcomes a culture that is as collaborative as it is productive, and doing so will not only improve your daily routine, but also the routines of those around you. Great leaders lead by example, and actions speak louder than words. 

Take Action: What can you do to maximize your productivity and efficiency levels? Sometimes, you need to slow down to speed up. Take some time to identify areas for improvement, then determine and implement solutions

Leadership on the GO…..It’s O.N.

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A recent finalist for the 2017 ORBIE CIO of the Year award, Onyeka brings more than 20 years of experience leading teams, developing strategies and building technology solutions. He has also led the creation and integration of technology solutions for a network of retail store franchises and distributors across North and Central America. Onyeka contributes to CIO Review magazine and shares his insights and experience with peers and colleagues via his own blog, Before joining Interstate Batteries in 2015, Onyeka led teams at Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, where he modernized technology practices and powered business processes for daily, on-the-street use. He is a graduate of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University and currently serves on the EVANTA Dallas CIO Governing Body. If Onyeka were not at Interstate, he’d find another way to combine his three biggest passions: his faith, helping others, and, of course, information technology. Because ultimately, as he puts it, “we can’t help everyone, but everyone can always help someone.”

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Deb June 3, 2016 at 7:05 pm

Thanks so much for posting this! I am delighted to hear that the idea that I introduced to you and Interstate was so successful. I am so glad that my legacy includes this contribution to IT@IBs success!

I look forward to hearing how my contributions to IT@IB continue on beyond my tenure!

Best of luck to you and the IT@IB team! You know how much I love my team!



avatar Onyeka Nchege June 5, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Deb, thanks for all of your contribution to IT@IB. As you know your idea for the “Innovation Day” was a huge success. Thanks for submitting the idea and bringing it to fruition. We have decided to continue the innovation day at least twice a year so definitely your legacy thru this contribution will absolutely live on at IB. Thanks again for all your contribution to our success. Good luck as you blaze new trails!


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