In every organization there is an individual who is supposed to have final say about interesting tidbits like ideas that will determine the future of your company, the universe and everything (My apologies to Mr. Adams.) Often this process is broken in several ways. The leader keeps a bucket of sand in his office for emergency head dunking. (Although Ostriches don’t survive this way, it is popular with management.) The leader has an idea list that will be gotten to when the day-to-day stuff is running perfectly. (This is a unique way of never saying never while always meaning never.) The leader is a group of people who listen to presentations and don’t really say yes or no, stop or go. (Often this is tied to meting out budget dollars in such a way that all comers can keep moving forward ever so slowly until a project derails of it’s own weight.) … Continue reading
Customers tend to come up with – and understand – incremental improvements. Important, but potentially a trail straight towards a cliff. Radical new concepts tend to fly under the radar, accepted by a few early adopters or as a solution to a niche problem until suddenly it makes sense in a wider context. So what happens when you let customers control your product development? They get what they want from you until the radical new solution is matured by somebody else. THEN THEY LEAVE, WONDERING WHY YOU WEREN’T MORE INNOVATIVE. So Creative Fire Extinguisher #3 is expecting your customers to be the visionaries. If you allow innovation to be driven from outside your organization, then at some point you will find your self so far behind the curve that your future is at stake.
A blast from a fire hose will put out almost any creative fire. In some organizations it becomes second nature, “New Idea! Find The Flaws!” The water hose is turned on full bore, showering the fire starter with problems and opening up flaws. The fire starter ends up defending their small spark of a fire, rather than gathering fuel and building it. Give an idea time to gel before pouring water on it.
Creative fire is a funny thing. It is the natural human condition to look for creative solutions and innovations. However, the natural tendency of existing organizations is to avoid creative fire because it shakes things up, rattles the bones. So, rather than espouse on all the ways you can encourage fire starting in your organization, I think it will be more useful to discuss all the ways an organization smothers creative fire. Stop throwing water buckets and the natural tendency will be for creativity to flourish. Creative Fire Extinguisher 1: “Did something like that 12 years ago and it didn’t work.” I just heard this one a day or two ago. I’m not sure anyone would say this is a good way to kill an idea, and yet, we all do it. We’re creatures of our own history and not repeating mistakes is a crucial element to survival. In the business … Continue reading
Looking for creative fire starters brought back to mind a study done by the Chicago Economic Development Council where only 25% of manufacturers in the greater Midwest seemed to have a clue when it comes to recognizing the need for constant technological innovation to stay ahead of (or even keep up with) the international market. The scary part is that for the majority of the organizations in that top 25% only the leadership was actively concerned about innovation. That means that innovation was being driven from the top down, probably seen as unnecessary or worse by the majority of the organization. Consistent, incremental and even groundbreaking innovation often comes from the bottom up. Your employees who are working with customers, working with tools, working with procedures are often in the best position to imagine improvements. More importantly, creative fire is a state of mind. If innovation is regularly improving a companies performance … Continue reading