Failure Had A Price. Failure Has A Price. Failure Will Always Have A Price.

I’m guilty of preaching the “Don’t fire your innovators who fail” sermon to upper management. I’ve done it many times. Sometimes I’ve seen my advice followed, sometimes not. The idea behind the sermon isn’t wrong. But when I look at the reasons why innovators who fail get pushed aside I find that the reasons lie less with management and more with the innovators themselves. So assuming a company at least gives lip service to the idea that improvement and innovation is worth the pain of learning through failure, what differentiates the innovator-who-thrives versus the innovator-who-is-sent-packing when things get difficult? Turns out the push aside vs treat as a learning experience decision depends more on how the innovator communicates and sets expectations than in how the project itself turns out. In a well run organization managers will make their decision based on your perceived future value – not on the cost … Continue reading

5 Pieces of Kindling

kin-dling –noun 1. material that can be readily ignited, used in starting a fire. 2. the act of one who kindles. ( Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.) Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Deluxe Edition (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (Deluxe)) If you have ever built a fire — indoors or out — you know that you can’t just lay match to log. The preparation that has to occur (the kindling) builds the foundation so that when a spark does occur there is something for it to ignite. The same is true for creativity and innovation. Without a receptive foundation, the spark will just languish and die. The question that I believe is the most important is the hardest to answer; How do you create a creative culture in an organization that is productive and consistent? Our starting point for this series is a quote attributed to Socrates — ” … Continue reading

Two Sides to the Creativity Coin

My partner has been writing an awesome series on “Creativity Killers.” Each and every one dead on as to their effects on an organization’s ability to be creative. Fred and I both agree that most organization’s wield these “weapons” too often with much success — even when they profess to be an organization that embraces innovation and change. For many years we have worked with clients on the need to create a strong creative culture — one that embraces those who go outside the status quo. Last night I picked up a book (Orbiting the Giant Hairball) from the man who taught me much about creative thinking and how to not get caught up in the “hairball” — Gordon McKenzie. As the creative guru and and professed burr-under-the-saddle at Hallmark Cards while I was there in the late 80’s/early 90’s, he provided me with great insights on stretching “paradigms” to … Continue reading

Creative Fire Extinguisher #8 – Everybody Knows

There is no greater enemy to uncommon opportunity than common knowledge. Years ago as head Easter Bunny for spring specialty products at Hallmark I was asked to redefine the business in a way that would start it growing again. As I put together what we knew about consumer behavior at Easter I came across an interesting tidbit that had been foundational to our thinking in the past and, to be honest, was a roadblock to what I wanted to do in the future. Everybody knew about this interesting tidbit. In their minds it was a fact. The tidbit appeared in business and marketing plans for as far back as my files went – without providing a source. I asked our librarian (oh, the benefits of big companies!) to see if he could dig up where it might have come from. He searched quite a bit and finally found a reference to the tidbit in a Hallmark … Continue reading

Creative Fire Extinguisher #7 – Wasting Time

Every improvement in productivity seems to carry with it the risk of waisted time. In today’s world, interruptions have become enemy number one to effectively letting your creative juices flow. Our desk used to have two primary sources of interruption. The visit and the phone. And really only one source of outside distraction, the magazine. Often we had to physically remove ourselves from our desk and head to the coffee machine to really avoid work. Now the machine that many of us depend on to get things done also provides multiple sources of distraction that one could argue are job related (IM, email, surfing, feeds…) and not job related (games, shopping, music, video…) not to mention the interesting distractions of viruses and breakdowns. Since many of these items can be set up to be intrusive, the ability to get a half-hour of uninterrupted think time becomes next to impossible. And … Continue reading