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How many times have you tried to reinvent the wheel? You have something you want to make better, so you go off by yourself and spend a tremendous amount of time dabbling with ideas. Often you spin your wheels so much that you end up putting those ideas on the back burner. The concern you were trying to address remains. The ideas you had get lost. Then two years later, you decided to reinvent that same wheel again, and you sorted through a whole new set of ideas.

So many times, we think that we are the only ones dealing with the problem, but lo and behold, many others have already dealt with the same thing, or something very similar to it. So the big question is, how do we find out who has an idea we can, or we should, try to capture?

Bakery engineers through history have been notorious for not asking for help, and even resisting it when it comes their way freely. These folks often feel they are supposed to know it all, but sometimes they don’t. It’s no fault of their own. They just have so much going on around them that they don’t feel like reaching out.

If you are a bakery engineer, you can reach out within your plant by asking people outside of your department what they think might improve a given situation. You can reach out across your company and share ideas with your peers at other plants, or you can jump outside into the industry and talk to folks that are doing exactly the same thing that you are. The bottom line is that you must talk to others if you are going to expand your knowledge base.

The flipside to this never-ending challenge involves getting your subordinates or peers to reach out when they need to. Maybe you know of someone or something that could truly help one of your fellow managers with an issue.

You know as well as I do that pushing an outside expert onto one of your managers is a risky proposition. In some cases, you may have to massage the idea a little bit so that you can get the buy-in you need, and other times you may have to strongly encourage this opportunity to get together with someone from the outside. If all else fails, you are the boss. You have the ultimate responsibility for the success of the operation and you may have to force the situation.

In the end, after dealing with all of the attitudes and personalities, everyone involved can sit back and realize that improvements can be made when you reach out, lean on others and embrace new ideas. When you come to work, put your stubbornness in the trunk of the car and be willing to learn something new from someone else.