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Business Innovation – Turning Problems Into Solutions
By Milo Bono
Problems, Problems, Problems – Wouldn’t life be grand if we never had any problems. Everything would work perfectly, everyone would always get along and be happy, everything would be wonderful for everyone everywhere, and things would only get better as we live happily ever after.
Unfortunately, in the real world there is no avoiding the grim realities of the dark side. Viewed from a perspective – take the number of problems of each person, multiply by the number of employees, multiply the result by every single aspect of doing business, and the final result is what keeps every owner chewing their fingernails down to the bone.
The most commonly accepted method of solving problems is simply to remove the cause. But this method is not always as simple as it would seem. Determining the true cause of a problem can be a very complicated affair, and even if you get this right – removing the cause can just as easily create a whole new set of problems.
Wouldn’t it be nice if a could institute policies and procedures were problems would solve themselves and the would reap tremendous benefits in the process?
How Problems Can Solve Themselves
It’s all about turning disadvantages into advantages, which is accomplished by finding innovative ways of viewing problems from a new point of view. A simple shift in perception is all it takes to reveal a whole new range of possibilities as seen from a new frame of reference.
The Value of Innovation
Innovation is a buzz word bandied about the community for quite a while now. In fact, the concept of innovation has blossomed over the years to become an entire industry unto itself.
What is innovation? The more traditional view would characterize innovation in terms of creating new marketable inventions. innovation is also commonly associated with the research and development activities involved in designing new products and services, and finding innovative ways of bringing them to market.
As the marketplace becomes ever more saturated, innovation takes on a vital role in distinguishing your products from the competition and leveraging every resource available to glean the crucial competitive advantage. The modern view recognizes the strategic value in applying innovation in EVERY phase of a company’s infrastructure encompassing the entire scope of company business.
Establishing a Culture of Innovation in the Workplace
Business innovation cannot thrive within a pyramid structure were it starts at the top and spreads through an organization with diminishing intensity, reaching to near zero at the base. A more effective strategy would be to invert the flow so that innovation starts at the base and continuously accelerates as it picks up momentum on the way to the top.
Establishing a corporate culture of innovation throughout the workplace begins with fostering proper attitude of management. Innovation is all about recognizing value in the attribute of flexibility, and welcoming the challenge of adapting to circumstances in a constant state of change.
Abolishing the Status Quo
This type of freewheeling thinking can be difficult for those accustomed to the emotional comfort and security of simply maintaining the status quo. Innovation is generally applied incrementally in small “safe” baby steps, and only to streamline established procedures rather than risking potential fallout from instituting major change. Major change usually happens only out of necessity as the old proven procedures become ineffective and obsolete.
The Hallmark of Creative Genius
Given proper training, everyone has the potential of developing the type of refined mental flexibility that is the hallmark of creative genius. Unfortunately, this kind of specialized training is not included in the standard curriculum of formal education. Education cultivates a very rigid style of thinking. As a result, the natural childlike flexibility we are all born with deteriorates out of neglect. Adults endowed with creative genius are those that have nurtured their mental flexibility by their own volition in spite of the destructive aspects of education.
Companies would be well advised to seek out these rare individuals for key
management positions, not only for their own creative input but more importantly for their ability to recognize the value of innovative ideas contributed by others. These are the people best equipped to lead the effort of developing effective strategies to deploy new ideas successfully.
Even though our creativity has been suppressed, it is not completely lost. A corporate culture endorsing perpetual innovation thrives on the realization that everyone has their eureka moments of inspiration from time to time.
Removing the Impediments to Innovation
Frontline workers see a company from their own unique perspective, and rightly so since they are intimately involved every working hour of every day. They often see problems management do not, and see how certain changes could benefit the company. Many are reluctant to come forward for fear of inciting negative repercussions. Frontline staff are sensitive to the risks provoking the ire of those with power over their position in the company, not to mention their entire career.
People in management positions often harbor the notion that they are the ones that do the “thinking”, and that frontline workers are paid to work – not to think, have ideas, or god forbid - to question the validity of existing policies or procedures. Managers often view this kind of input as a challenge to their competence and authority which could threaten their own position. Corporate cultures with a rigid hierarchy create a working environment were everyone develops their own private self-serving agenda which are often out of sync with the company’s best interests. A rigid hierarchy tends to stifle innovation leaving substantial opportunities lost by the wayside.
A critical factor in cultivating a culture of innovation is removing intimidating fear factors endemic to the more common authoritarian culture so that staff can genuinely feel free to contribute ideas. Indeed contributing new ideas should be encouraged and staff should be rewarded for ideas that are adopted and prove beneficial to the company.
A company can realize tremendous benefits by deliberately allowing everyone in the organization the freedom to devote a small percentage of their work week exclusively to generating innovation. Furthermore they should be provided with quality tools and training to maximize their potential for success.
It Starts at the Top
Of course even the most revolutionary innovations are completely worthless without principal management's willingness to institute change. It is the vision and fortitude of high caliber management that determines a company's overriding philosophy. There comes a time when this philosophy itself must be challenged for a company to evolve with a changing marketplace.
Success in deploying a culture of innovation depends entirely on cultivating the proper attitude of EVERYONE in the organization, there can be no exceptions. It is our rigid preconceived notions about how we think things should be that prevents innovation from working its magic.
Plant the Seeds and Reap a Bountiful Harvest
One of the precious few immutable facts of life is that everything changes. We prosper by realizing that every adversity contains the seed of new opportunity. The current economic crisis is just another example of change that challenges our ability to innovate, adapt, and exploit the fresh opportunities presented by change. As previously stated - It's all about turning disadvantage to advantage, and all that's required is a shift in perception to a new point of view.
In order to determine how to shift our perception we must be willing to continuously re-examine and re-evaluate the truth of our existing perceptions. Innovation is the means to move beyond our existing perceptions to explore new territories ripe with opportunity. A corporate culture of innovation is the means to utilize in full measure the most valuable resource of any organization - its people. There is nothing more powerful than open hearts and open minds working together in synergistic unity for a common purpose.
Every that plants the seeds of innovation throughout the entire organization, provides all the nutrients needed to sustain new growth, and removes any obstacles that impede new growth, will surely thrive and reap a bountiful harvest.
Milo Bono is the founder and lead developer of Promptoria - Software for Innovation and Creativity. www.Promptoria.com
Promptoria is dedicated to helping people amplify their natural creativity and critical thinking skills.
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