And now it’s time to innovate – yes, you can! Three tips on how you can learn to innovate

From Janine Lampprecht | 17. February 2022 | Reading time: 3 Minutes
Eine Hand zeigt auf abstrakte Symbole zur künstlichen Intelligenz.

This news still make us proud.

But what does innovation actually mean? If we consult Wikipedia, it is derived from innovation, renewal. In colloquial language, one speaks of ideas and inventions.

And what does the customs sector and our daily work have to do with innovation? We are not reinventing the law, at least not in our daily work. But if we take a closer look, we can find many innovations. Not all of them will revolutionise customs tomorrow, but they may make work easier. With our contribution, we want to give you a few tips on how to promote and implement innovations in your company and in the customs department.

Innovation, discussion and revolution

Whether you work alone or with a large department in customs and export control. You can integrate innovation as a system into your daily routine. You can systematise innovation, so to speak.

What do you gain from being called innovative? From our point of view, three factors: firstly, you will have fun with the idea and its implementation; secondly, you will charge your own knowledge account with every project; and thirdly, you can expand your network in and outside the company.

Renewing yourself and being innovative as a result therefore thrives on ideas that are then put into practice. Two things for which a “climate” or culture should be created in the company.

Personally, I have to say that I don’t know many theoretical models for developing innovative ideas. I think it’s important to focus on ideas and then bring them to implementation and quickly to the market. One factor that ensures sustainability is that you take on new projects from the list of ideas every year, or generate new ideas. Generating ideas is put so simply: this is also a personality issue. There are people who can develop many ideas – others are better able to critically examine the idea for quality, compliance and feasibility. For good implementation, we always need everyone to bring an idea to fruition. Therefore, you should make sure that many different colleagues participate in your innovation process. This sometimes costs time and discussions, but friction creates energy and energy creates innovation.

Your innovation process in the company

The innovation process creates a clear framework that structures and systematically implements the development of new products, services or business models. It usually starts with idea generation. Collect and submit your ideas, considering innovation as an investment. With every idea, you have to ask yourself in advance: What do we achieve with it? Ideally, it should be an investment that will pay for itself over a certain period of time.

In the next step, you evaluate your ideas, because not everything can always be implemented. It is important not to discard everything that is not being pursued at the moment. A list of ideas should remain so that you can reflect on them again and also fall back on them. In the next step, it is important to immediately start implementing improvements and new topics. After the WHAT, the next step is the HOW. In this phase of development, you should also calmly allow mistakes, because this is the only way you can take the narrow learning curve for improvement.

In our company, we have identified innovation as a very big value. Some of the projects we have been able to successfully implement so far are, for example, our online academy for customs officers and customs auditors, self-developed master data software, our new company “Zollpiloten” and some internal processes. So you could say that our constant self-optimisation is part of our DNA. Change and improvement is absolutely everyday for us and something completely normal.

Time for ideas – where do I start?

What and where can processes and procedures be innovated in the customs department? As a tip, where you can directly start and what you can directly examine are your master data projects: How exactly do you create your master data? Or how do you deal with the issue of further training? How are your new employees trained? What about your meeting culture?

In principle, all topics can be innovated. Innovation is not always just big, many small steps also lead to completely new processes and corporate cultures, even in the customs sector. You can also think about how much paper is still used in this or that process. How long does a process take, and what are the recurring activities.

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