Friday, July 1, 2011

In your Small Business, Innovation is everyone’s job: 360 degree.

To Think Business Strategy, Think Creativity and Innovation!
In a Small Business Enterprise, Innovation is Everyone’s job--Not just the Business Owner's

A Small business advantage: Develop Lions before you are trampled by your own herd of sheep.

Graft Innovation and creativity as the principles of your small business strategies because as you grow, it will be much harder to change what you have established as an organization's culture.  

Just as individuals need support to come up with new ideas, organizations need fertile ground to support creativity and innovation--whether you are in a service or product business.

I like to share with you some of the most useful topics I have learned from various experts, my clients, students, and 20 years of  experience on innovation, creativity and design.  You will find more sources (and ideas) through the references below.

Your business strategy should call for every single person in the organization to innovate--daily. Creativity and innovation need to be a fabric of your organization, as the example of Innovation in business strategy at Whirlpool can show. Please check it out, at some point.

How is your organization set up?

To set the stage to unleash creativity in your business, look at its foundation:

1.   Has your organization structured its strategies to permit innovation and creativity to flourish?

2.   Do you have creative and innovative team?

3.   Do you encourage people to think creatively or your expect them to follow the rules. 

Walt Disney created an organization that everyone who ever worked there, think of himself/or herself as Walt Disney. Don't you want to duplicate yourself?

You want your clients "come back and bring their friends" to your business, as Disney suggested, don't you?  So you need your team to be so charged with inspiration that cannot wait to tell their friends about how THEIR ideas contributed to innovations in your business.
An excellent example of an organization that embedded creativity in its core strategy is the Disney Organization.  Although Walt himself did not support his staff to venture outside his ideas, he created an organization that everyone who works there, think of himself/or herself as Walt Disney. He found a way to duplicate himself; you need to do this too.

To see if an idea can be implemented, it’s best to set up processes, procedures and structures

See more on these in my Business Strategy video.

Steps to take to make things happen:

Naturally, to generate new ideas is the first step, but "application" has to come next; think of this as the right foot and the left foot; once your right foot stepped forward, the left has to move, and now you are going places! Once you came up with an idea, you need to find ways to set things in motion, and see how practical it is, therefore, Implementation is putting ideas into practice. So, among a dozen ideas you have lying around:

1.   Select a new idea or approach to solve a problem or create new opportunities.
2.   Develop it to bite size, or to show signposts and benchmarks to measure result.
3.   See if the idea can be duplicated and commercialized, and then…
4.   Commit to it and take action despite naysayers.

To see if an idea can be implemented, it’s best to set up schedules, processes, procedures and structures; A to Z, that allow the timely and effective execution of projects

Release the power of your imagination:

The best way to unleash your creativity is to actually DO this exercise.  Be sure to type answers as completely as you can:

1.   What are the areas you organization can venture in that has so far been  overlooked? What is it that prevents you from seeing the opportunities?
2.   What is it that limits your imagination? 
3.   Is it that people may not grasp it and welcome it? 
4.   Are you aware of your own mental barriers? What are they?
5.   Why you have not taken action?
6.   Fear of failure? What are at risks?
7.   How will you feel if you succeed?
8.   What prevents your team to innovate in products or services you already offer, or create a new line of opportunity?
9.   Are you an inspirational leader who leverages the collective wisdom or you like to micromanage your staff?  

Maybe your staff is throwing party when you are out,... and then, when you need them, they  hide behind their works. Is this the culture you have implanted?   

The one with the nose on the grindstone does not innovate!
Some people think that to be creative problem solver, one has to have experience on the field.  Not true.  There was no personal computer for Steve Jobs to come up with the Apple.  Neither, there was a plane around before the Wright Brothers took off; nor was there electricity before Tom Edison--if Tesla wouldn't mind. (See my blog on how they raised from ashes below) On the other hand some people take innovation to be their only objective in life, as some people think money is their main goal.  You and I know that ideas, innovations, and money are only tools to achieve your goals, and, hopefully, they are not mistaken for goals.
Having said that, once you did come up with an idea, now you need some time to develop it, and work on it, until it's proven to be commercialized; and to weed out all the unnecessary steps to develop a short path to the goal.

Just as you can develop leadership, creativity is nurtured by motivation, positive feedback and inspirations.  Creativity and Innovations don’t magically happen. They need to be soaked, and carefully imbedded in the vision, mission, and strategy of the organization.  It has to be the heir apparent in all your services and products.

Despite common belief, creativity is not intrinsic, intuitive, and genetic, although these are inarguably a plus for those who may have inherited such qualities, but even Mozart couldn’t be the genius we have come to appreciate without inspiration, encouragement, and…. practice. 

If a job can capture one’s mind and soul, there’s no meaning to TGIF.

To watch the act, set the stage!

I have had many experiences with people who told me creativity or innovation is not their little thing. I know a cashier who worked for over 20 years at the cash register, who told me creativity is the boss’s job.  One of my old set up crew at the Miami Arena told me that the reason Bono fell off from the stage during a rehearsal (on the long stage set up going through the Arena), could be fixed (as he did it) with a minimum cost, saving us millions in damages, lawsuits and embarrassments.   You CAN get your staff step outside the red circle.  In short, innovation has to be all around us just like the atmosphere around the earth--even within the 6 feet radius of anyone's desk. Creativity and innovation is everyone’s job, because if the job can engage one’s mind and soul, there’s no meaning to TGIF. People look forward to speak about their passion 24-7.

Having said that innovation and creativity can be honed and nurtured, I am not holding my breath to see if everyone is on the wagon. All I'm saying is this: You need to have the door open. Innovation will enter when the time is ripe.

Complacency is such a lovely Dungeon-Master.

Although it takes leaders to inspire creativity, it needs managers to implement it efficiently.  We need both: One to untie your wings, the other to show you the nest, and help you lay those golden eggs.   
One of the persisting old school practices in most American enterprises is the over-dependency on how things were done in the past, and how to increase the quantity to beat the past performances.  The ingenuity of American however, as Mark Twain once observed, and Jim Rohn rephrased is how to succeed doing the opposite: to do things that has never been done; to pull things out of the thin air; to envision what wasn’t there, to be perceptive amidst confusion. This is the American way.

Exactly as our kids can relate to aliens better than they can relate to cows, oaks, or pelicans all around us, if we can visualize your ideas, we will relate to them. Little kids 'don't have cow' about what their burgers are made of, but they have a good image of a spaceships. This is the secret of Hollywood: imagination can be more real than the real thing (For that matter we are all in a different matrix). We can relate to fibs of Hollywood better than facts of Washington.  {as a side note, that's perhaps why we need politicians to look and act like celebrities, and fib about problems that don't mean anything, instead of addressing the real issues.} 
Let your staff and your clients see how your innovation can help them in the way they can visualize your ideas. This needs your major work.  Do you have a plan that can help us visualize your work before you tell us about it?

To summarize: Your business strategy needs to focus on everyone’s imagination, creativity, and innovation.  Don't try to shoehorn your creative staff back into their cubicles!
Next …Aliens R us,
I will be exploring the Diversity Management as one of the biggest issues that present new challenges and opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders. 

Whether you want to do business nationally or globally, understanding our different ways we think can help you develop an organization that can go beyond color, race, gender, age and hairdo. 
Some of the sources used in this article and more reading material:
Creative Intelligence, 1/e (A. Rowe)
No additional online materials are available for this textbook. 
>>Click here to access the Rowe website
Managing Innovation, Design and Creativity , 1/e (B. Stamm)
No additional online materials are available for this textbook. 
>>Click here to access the Stamm website
The Power of Impossible Thinking, 1/e (Wind and Crook)
No additional online materials are available for this textbook. 
>>Click here to access the Wind/Crook website