You can pick your raw materials for product you make but your innovation raw materials are your people. Understanding your people will improve your chance of innovation success.

When we make product we start with raw materials. In the manufacturing world with just-in-time and supply chain integration, our raw material suppliers are vetted and their quality assessed, specifications analyzed and sample materials inspected. This happens well in advance of approving the supplier for routine material purchase.

How does this apply in the innovation realm? Our “raw materials” are our people, who create actionable ideas. These include not only the people within our organization’s four walls, but also those outside people with whom we choose to engage for innovation – including suppliers and customers.

If people are the raw material, how are they vetted for creating an innovation culture that leads to quantifiable results? The short answer is that in many cases you may be stuck with a raw material inventory of naysayers, “not invented here” types that if they were actual raw material vendors they might be replaced.

In the company culture, we have to use what we’ve got and “bloom where we are planted,” so to speak. Since we can’t choose the company culture let’s at least understand where people are coming from. Here are some sample survey questions you may want to consider for an anonymous poll of your key decision makers and workers who make it happen every day:

Where should you company focus its innovation efforts in order to be competitive?

How urgent do you think #1 is? How quickly does it need to be done?

How successful in the past has your company been at developing innovative products and services?

How bold has your company been toward taking on new ideas and innovations?

Is creativity/innovation rewarded at your company?

Based on your company culture, how able are your people to take action on new initiatives?

These are just a few examples of survey questions that can help you to better understand your innovation “raw materials.” What questions do you suggest?