Are you an order taker or innovator? How to add value to your life and career


Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with great people from all walks of life. Many of them taught me how to add value to my career and strengthen my brand. I also learned about career traps and what it means to be labeled, in an organization, as an “order taker.” An order taker, in the context of this reading, is defined as one that only does what he/she is asked to do; nothing more, nothing less. To avoid this label, one must map out a plan and demonstrate the value he/she could bring to an organization.

Adding value to an organization is paramount in today’s competitive market. Companies are not only looking for those who can follow instructions but can be innovative and strategically take the company to greater heights.

If you are caught in the trap of being labeled an order taker and desire to be an innovator, there are some self-assessments you should take. You should understand your organization’s culture, the written and unwritten rules, and you must have the skill set to accomplish your plan. You also need to know the movers and shakers of the organization and learn from their actions. If you are lacking on any, learn what is needed.

There are additional steps below you should take in order to effectively transition onto the path of being an innovator. By incorporating these steps, you would have a more focused approach and purpose.

Be consistent and own your truth: The desire to be an innovator is more than just wanting to get a promotion and make more money. It is truly about believing in your work and being committed to the organization’s mission and cause.

This requires you to do a level of self-evaluation and reflection in owning your truth. You have to ask yourself if you are willing to run the race, take rejection, criticism, and through it all, continue to push forward. If you are able to own your truth, you will be able to move throughout the terrain with deeper traction.

Listen with the aim of finding solutions: Listening is a skill that requires the ability to hear what is instructed as well as what is needed. For example, if you work in a Marketing Brand Unit and your supervisor ask the question, “I do not know why our clothing line is confused with our competitors?” What s/he could be stating is, we need to rebrand our clothing line from our competitors. This could be an opportunity for you to research and develop a branding strategy for that clothing line.

Seek out wise counsel and garner your support: In creating innovation, it would be advisable to run a summary of your ideas to those you trust and respect in your organization. They could give you more insight on the direction of the company, further direction for getting your ideas endorsed, and steps for implementing your strategy. 

Be authentic and strategic in introducing your ideas to the decision makers: In today’s world, timing and delivery are everything. When introducing your idea to decision makers, learn how to present your idea according to their style of receiving and understanding information. Moreover, be sure to articulate your ideal in terms of cost, how & when it will be implemented, and resources needed, and most importantly, outline the return on investment (ROI). 

Execute your plan with deliberate intent: You are given the green light to implement your idea, so what are your next steps? Take this as an opportunity to solidify your value, intellectual stamina, and credibility within your organization. Map out, deliberately, how you are going to implement your project and reignite support to complete your idea. Keep in mind that mistakes do happen; therefore, institute controls to minimize those mistakes. 

Transitioning from an order taker to innovator is a process that requires consistency. It is also a matter of re-engineering your personal brand and having the courage to change. By having the strategy, belief, and courage, you will evolve into being an innovator and others will take notice.

Alan D. Benson, President of Benson Group, LLC, is the author of this article.


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