Year: 2005

Innovation and the challenge of growth

Constant innovation is a characteristic of many successful growing companies. Staying ahead of the competition requires inventiveness at individual, group, and company levels. As companies grow, market demands and competition can force them to maintain a culture of continuous innovation. Growth, however, also creates a need for structure and control, which can make a culture of innovation difficult to sustain.

Erosion of flexibility
Sustainable growth requires increased operational scale, but companies cannot scale their operations effectively without implementing formal structures and processes. Growth can strain the entrepreneurial philosophy that has fuelled a company’s success. More importantly, it can erode corporate flexibility. As management layers increase, they create islands of data, knowledge, and intelligence that can complicate a company’s decision-making processes.

Reduced tolerance of risk
Developing new ideas is a risk-intensive process that requires significant resources. As companies grow, their risk profile must become more conservative as shareholders expect them to stabilise operations and manage their business according to financial criteria.

Collision of cultures
As companies grow, they require people who can guide them through each stage of their organisational development. However, companies also have to evolve to meet changing internal and external priorities. As a result, a company’s corporate culture is pulled between two ways: established employees who are used to a stable and familiar environment, and newer employees who have a different mindset, a higher tolerance for risk, and place less value on organisational structure. Left unchecked, this dichotomy can cause a company’s culture to be dictated by employee self-interest rather than corporate objectives.

Taking on the challenge
Sustaining an innovative culture requires companies to create environments where creative thinking is central to corporate values, actions, and assumptions. Innovative companies require employees who seek new opportunities, accept risk, collaborate well with others, and commit themselves to the organisation. Innovative companies also require leaders that will work to create those kinds of environments and will guide and promote innovative behaviour.

  1. Create the required foundation
    Companies need to assess the role of innovation within their organisations, make the necessary adjustments to their goals and their corporate culture, and redefine the responsibilities of their leaders.
  2. Enhance operations to foster innovation
    By creating an environment that empowers employees, companies will promote the collaboration required to generate and implement new ideas.
  3. Manage the ongoing change
    Companies must create teams to guide them through periods of change, manage their employees’ anxieties, and set small milestones to be used to gauge enthusiasm.

How do you know if you have the right foundation? A comprehensive assessment can be carried out using our Innovation Toolkit, however why not take this simple test to assess the state of your company?

Answer the following questions with a YES, NO or SORT OF.

Do you have the required foundation?
1. Does innovation continually contribute to revenue
generation and cost savings within your company?
2. Is innovation pervasive across the company, or is it isolated to specific groups?
3. Do your employees understand how innovation relates to the corporate vision and goals?
4. Have you created a set of core values, beliefs, and norms in order to guide the development of your corporate culture?
5. Have you redefined the roles of your company leaders to encourage and champion creative activities?

Do your operations foster innovation?
6. Does your workforce consist of people who have the ability to approach problems in an unconventional manner?
7. When hiring new employees, do you look for people who are willing to challenge the status quo and pursue new trends and directions?
8. Do you involve employees in the hiring process?
9. Do you have programs and activities that allow for meaningful interaction between new and existing employees?
10. Do you encourage your employees to be divergent thinkers and ensure that they have the right information and resources to follow through on their ideas?
11. Have you assessed your company’s organizational structure to identify and remove decision-making bottlenecks?
12. Is there a high degree of trust and open communication between various groups in your company?
13. Do you balance empowerment with accountability by creating a set of metrics for your employees to work toward?
14. Do your employees feel secure enough to believe that should their ideas fail to realize the desired result it will not affect their position within the company?
15. Does your company have a reward system that fosters behaviour that contributes to innovation?

How do you manage change?
16. Do you have a team of dedicated individuals, composed of representative employees, that lead and champion the changes required to sustain innovation?
17. Does this team monitor the activities of the company and ensure that there are no inconsistencies in the practices expected and performed?
18. Does this team use dialogue and consensus-building to garner support for the changes at the departmental level?
19. Do you manage the expectations and anxieties of your employees by communicating why change is important, involving employees in the implementation process, and providing the time and opportunity to disengage from the status quo?
20. Do you articulate clear short-term goals and objectives, measure progress, and communicate evidence of success to maintain the momentum and enthusiasm of your employees as changes are implemented?

If more than 75 percent of your answers (16 of 20) are “Yes,” then your company is likely to be adequately addressing the challenge of fostering an innovative culture.

If 50 to 75 percent of your answers (10 to 15) are “Yes” or “Sort Of,” there is more work to be done in order to foster an innovative culture.

If less than 50 percent of your answers are either “Yes” or “Sort Of,” your company seriously needs to re-evaluate its approach towards fostering an innovative culture.

To find out more about managing Innovation visit our website and sign up for our free Creativity and Innovation newsletter.

The Role of The Business Storyteller

A major role of senior management is to motivate people to reach certain goals. To do that, they must engage their emotions, and the key to their hearts is story. There are two ways to persuade people. The first is by using conventional rhetoric, which is what most executives are trained in. It’s an intellectual process, and in the business world it usually consists of a PowerPoint slide presentation in which you say, “Here is our company’s biggest challenge, and here is what we need to do to get ahead.” And you build your case by giving statistics, facts and quotes. But there are two major problems.

First, the people you’re talking to have their own set of rules, statistics, and life experiences. While you’re trying to persuade them, they are arguing with you in their heads. Second, if you do succeed in persuading them, you’ve done so only on an intellectual basis. That’s not good enough, because people are not inspired to act by reason alone.

The other way to persuade people – and ultimately a much more powerful way – is by uniting an idea with an emotion. The best way to do that is by telling a compelling story. In a story, you not only weave a lot of information into the telling but you also arouse your listener’s emotions and energy. Persuading with a story is hard. Any intelligent person can sit down and make lists.

It takes rationality but little creativity to design an argument using conventional rhetoric. But it demands vivid insight and storytelling skill to present an idea that packs enough emotional power to be memorable. If you can harness imagination and the principles of a well-told story, then you get people rising to their feet amid thunderous applause instead of yawning and ignoring you.

Read more on using Storytelling in a business context in future blogs and see the Creative Business Solutions’ website for more creative ways to get ahead in business.

The Gods And Creativity

Below is one of my favourite tales from an old training book. Simple but effective. Read on …

It was not long after the Gods had created humankind that they began to realise their mistake. The creatures that they had created were so adept, so skilful, so full of curiosity and the spirit of enquiry that it was only a matter of time before they would start to challenge the Gods themselves for supremacy.

To ensure their pre-eminence the Gods held a large conference to discuss the issue. Gods were summoned from all over the known and unknown worlds. The debates were long, detailed, and soul-searching.

All the Gods were very clear about one thing. The difference between them and mortals was the differences between the quality of the resources they had. While humans had their egos and were concerned with the external, material aspects of the world, the Gods had spirit, soul, and an understanding of the workings of the inner self.

The danger was that sooner or later the humans would want some of that too.

The Gods decided to hide their precious resources. The question was: where? This was the reason for the length and passion of the debates at the Great Conference of the Gods.

Some suggested hiding these resources at the top of the highest mountain. But it was realised that sooner or later the humans would scale such a mountain.

And the deepest crater in the deepest ocean would be discovered.

And mines would be sunk into the earth.

And the most impenetrable jungles would give up their secrets.

And mechanical birds would explore the sky and space.

And the moon and the planets would become tourist attractions.

And even the wisest and most creative of the Gods fell silent as if every avenue had been explored and found wanting.

Until the Littlest God, who had been silent until now, spoke up. “Why don’t we hide these resources inside each human? They’ll never think to look for them there.”

For more snippets of information, hints and tips relating to creativity and innovation why not visit our website and sign up for our regular newsletter?

Working with aliens

Not an episode of Star Trek but one of my favourite techniques for a) generating results b) getting a reaction from colleagues.

This technique is one of a series in which random stimuli are used and alternative viewpoints are adopted. It works best with well defined problems or where new products or services are being considered.

To start, define the problem or situation as best you can and brief those who are taking part. A group of half a dozen or so is ideal.

Imagine that an alien spaceship has landed on earth and the aliens are looking at your problem or the object that you have described. Next try to imagine what sort of questions the aliens would be asking, what would they be curious about? Many of the checklist techniques can provide some guidance here. A possible list could be:

  • What is the purpose of this?
  • How does it work?
  • Why does it have to be this way?
  • Why do these earthlings use these materials?
  • Is it useful to me?
  • Why does this matter, and to whom?
  • Is it worth any money?
  • Is there any other value?
  • Could it be used for …..?

These (and other questions) should be asked with childlike innocence i.e. assume no familiarity with earthly concepts.

The questions may throw up some ideas which indicate that the original starting point was flawed. If this is the case then revisit the problem definition stage of the creative problem solving process. If some common themes emerge then record these and use them as random stimuli for further excursions or use a form of association to group some of themes to see if they suggest further options, choices or ideas.

To find out more about Creative Problem Solving and to obtain another forty seven great techniques visit the Creative Business Solutions product store. You can also sign up for our regular electronic newsletter too.

Are you trying to develop ideas for a new product or service?

Are you stuck? Well here is a simple technique that might help you out. Take that idea and try to apply some of the items in the following ‘List And Twist’ checklist to it. They may seem strange but they just might jog your memory! For instance I showed the list to someone who was writing a children’s book and they were taken by the suggestion of adding a smell! The net result – a scratch and sniff book. Try it for yourself and see.

Add a step, Find other uses, Slow down, Rearrange the steps, Improve the quality,
Add motion, Add an ingredient, Make it easier, Change packaging, Combine ingredients,
Align with other product, De-automate parts, Make it more extreme, Make it more expensive , Put some fun in it, Substitute materials, Find new distribution, Change the state,
Make it self service, Combine other processes, Change the shape , Add more service,
Make it a game, Put a story with it, Celebrity connection, Reverse the concept,
Turn it upside down, Purify it, Add nostalgia, Add smell

For more ideas visit

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