What Is Your Company’s CCC Quotient?

Why can’t we be more creative?

Simple question certainly but the answer is usually a lot more complicated and a lot more work than managers want to hear. Building and maintaining an organization that is successfully and productively creative has to start with the basic understanding of what creativity is and what breeds it.

Creativity is about building something new out of what you have:

“I have a broken chair and a roll of duct tape.”

“I need a solution to our dependency on foreign oil and I have corn.”

“I need a way to read at night without the risk of fire and I know a bit about physics.”

“I have a nation that needs something to energize and unite them and I have scientists who are smart and a moon waiting to be explored.

Most organizations want the “something new” but have trouble understanding the process to get there. Unless it can be fixed with duct tape, one can’t hand a team an unrealized opportunity and expect a workable solution before the end of the day.

“Do I hear a chorus of ‘duh’s out there?”

Of course I do. But here is the part of the equation many corporate organizations miss — time is not the only variable in the equation. The path to the most creative solutions is paved with a long-term commitment to the chaos and disruption creativity causes.

Here are 10 questions that will help you determine the Capitalized Creative Commitment (CCC) of your organization:

1. Do you still live in a world of “suits” and “creatives” even though the dress code is mostly business casual? Is “creative” a department not a descriptor?

2. Are there standard phrases used to kill an idea…Too expensive, too hard, too risky, too new, too “out there,” too ……

3. Is there a single person or department that is always a bottleneck or barrier to a new way of conducting business?

4. How many layers of approval have to happen before budget can be spent to investigate a newly identified opportunity? Does it take a business case?

5. When was the last time your organization celebrated a failure as a learning and growth opportunity for individuals and the company?

6. When was the last time your company took a real stand in the marketplace with a new idea beating your competition to the punch?

7. Are employees encouraged to “play” as a part of their work assignments?

8. How much time do employees spend at their desk and not in your marketplace?

9. What is rewarded most — “A new idea or a budget savings?”

10. How would you characterize the climate of your company — “cold & brisk” or “warm & sunny?”

Obviously these are basic indicators that can help you measure your CCC Quotient. During the next few weeks as everyone is preparing for the expected push the new year brings I will be writing on “Capitalize Creative Commitment” and how you can lead your company to successful and productive creative chaos.

Commercializing Technology – Starting The Business

“You either make it or sell it.”

Those are the key first players in a new business according to Michael Ferro, Jr., Chairman and CEO, Click Commerce, Inc. at the Forum –Commercializing Technology To Drive New Business Formation: The Experience of Entrepreneurs.

A great insight, one relevant not only to entrepreneurs but any business developing a new category, product or business.

Sales ensures a direct connection to the market you are trying to tap. Immediate feedback. Deals done.

The Builder ensures a product gets made and delivered with vision & insight.

For a new entrepreneurial company this provides the foundation for building. In my own experience, this provides the foundation for larger organizations to ‘go entrepreneurial,’ driving quicker decisions. Cheaper development. Cleaner concepts.

You Can’t Hide from a Marketing Problem

There has been an ongoing discussion during the past few years about the integrity of business. (Think Enron, Haliburton, etc.) I think this conversation has been somewhat overstated given that the majority of business owners in the U.S. are honest and trustworthy people trying to succeed in a very chaotic marketplace.

For the past several years, the marketplace has seemed to reward businesses that have a great “presence” but not always a strong delivery system. I have always hated the phrase “they can talk the talk but can they walk the walk?” But, for many businesses, the past decade focused on the talking and not worrying so much about walking. And I think it is because marketing has, as a discipline, taken a different role in business than traditionally wielded. We have, in some corners, become more about communications, ‘Q’ scores and “buzz” and less about building and growing a business.

In the more traditional marketing model, marketing set the standards around which the product was delivered. This vision drove manufacturing, operations, inventory management, finance and sales. Marketing was responsible for bringing the marketplace opportunity and the business ability together in successful execution. Only a small part of marketing was the communication side of the discipline.

In recent years, businesses began to look to different disciplines within their business model to find their advantage and their focus – programming, finance, sales channel, delivery system. The right things to do certainly, but marketing didn’t lead the effort, guaranteeing that the organization and infrastructure was strong enough and focused enough to deliver a product that enough customers want in a way that is financially viable for all.

And because of this, it was easy for businesses to set aside their infrastructure/ marketing problems that occurred when business was good and the immediate consequences minor.

“So what if our service ratings have fallen…”
“So what if our quality perception scores are down from last year…”
“So what if our product is backordered for 60 days…”
“So what if our billing system only has a 75% accuracy rating…”
“So what if …”

I think the 90’s allowed businesses to follow the “Field of Dreams” philosophy – build it and they will come. But too many forgot that it isn’t whether they will come or not but whether they will buy.

Marketing, as a discipline, has followed the same creed. Too much time and money spent on creating an image instead of creating the product. Coca-Cola is a mega-brand not because of the money spent on advertising this year but because of the decades of delivering a high-quality product that satisfied their customers’ needs and desires. Their marketing team has been an amazing example of success – not because they do great advertising…but because they deliver a great product to build a great business. And, even Coke can’t rest on its image and not worry about the product – hence the disastrous New Coke of years gone by. Marketing’s responsibility to its organization is finding the right balance between the great idea and the great business.

It is time to return to the idea of marketing as the discipline of the whole business. It is about the product and the marketplace delivery system; the communications and the manufacturing/service development; the promotion and the customer care. Marketing is about how your entire business works together to deliver a great product or service to the marketplace.

Marketing should represent both the marketplace and all of its demands as well as the business and the need to deliver products and services profitably. Is there a need? Is there a gap? Is there an opportunity? What are the benefits? What would they spend? Where would they buy? What would it cost? How does it have to be delivered? What are the inventory pressures?

Facing the problem, when you learn about it, in an honest and assertive way will guarantee a brighter future for you and your business. Don’t bury your head (or the messenger) in hopes that it will go away. Dig into it; understand the impact on your business processes and your customer. Ask questions and look for answers – both short-term fixes and long-term solutions – they both count.

When Am I Suppose To Buy Halloween Candy

I was in a retail store last night getting a prescription filled. Halloween was almost non-existent in the store with Christmas already looming large. The Halloween candy selection was all but replaced with marshmallow Christmas trees and candy canes. I don’t know about you but I can’t buy my trick-or-treat stash before October 30th if I want to actually give it away October 31st.

Even more frustrating is that I know Valentine’s Day will fill in behind the empty Christmas card pockets and candy shelves with Easter following closely behind.

Last year I tried to buy a new winter coat at the end of January. Couldn’t find one but did find a number of bathing suits to take me through the summer. Need a wool sweater buy it in August. Back to school supplies actually begin showing up in large retailers in July. Heaven forbid you want to buy the hottest toy for your child and not have to participate in retail’s version of Roller Derby.

The shopping public is tired. Our stress levels are at record heights and the early push on our shopping seasons just adds to the anxiousness and frustration. I would be willing to bet my Christmas budget that if a retailer actually kept to a reasonable calendar without creating a false sense of “being behind,” they would do very well. I hear more and more people talking about how draining going to a mall is. Everything is on overload and no longer can one just shop for fun.

I think one reason internet shopping continues to grow is because consumers can find what they want, when they want it without all the dazzling time tricks to make us all feel anxious that we aren’t completely done with Christmas by Thanksgiving.

Just one marketer’s observation!

Seth Godin On Marketing Creativity Killers

Seth Godin writing about what kills marketing creativity, identifies two primary culprits: Fear and Lack of Imagination. As part of his piece, Mr. Godin says:

“Basically, most people don’t believe something better can occur. They believe that the status quo is also the best they can do. So they don’t look. They don’t push. They don’t ask, “what else?” and “what now?” They settle.”

It is so easy for a marketing organization to fall into this trap…innovation often creates discomfort throughout a company. And when marketing looses it edge the rest of an organization will follow.

Recently I spoke about a study that divided Midwest manufacturers into Advanced, Progressive, Struggling and Disengaged categories based on their desire to incorporate new technology and systems into their workflow. The largest group – The Disengaged – have lost their vision for change and innovation. Even under extreme economic pressure they fall into the trap Mr. Godin describes so well.

How to escape?

Effective marketing connects your entire company to the marketplace. Marketers with Vision often cause discomfort when they identify weaknesses that need to be addressed, trends that indicate trouble, customer problems that need resolution or radical directions that may turn your entire business model on its head.

When a marketer gives into fear and suffers from a lack of imagination, the discomfort stops…and unfortunatley a critical voice for innovation in your organization is silenced.

Seth Godin’s blog on this subject is at: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/10/the_two_things_.html