Creative Fire Extinguisher #9 – Ignore The Little Things

During the creative process opportunities have to be ranked and evaluated so that decisions can be made about where to expend resources. The danger here is in creating a ranking system so simplistic that critical small ideas never receive focus. Determining market size and sales opportunity is a natural part of this process. Developing filters to help managers make quick decisions streamlines this process and helps focus human capital. Large organizations often create a cut-off point – “No ideas under $20 million.” The difficulty with this simplistic approach is three-fold. First, truly breakthrough ideas are very difficult to size correctly. Second, sometimes strategically you’re better off firing 5 small shots at a market than one cannonball. Third, it reduces motivation for employees to explore ideas of anything less than obvious potential. I’ve addressed the difficulty customers have in comprehending their need for breakthrough products (CFE #3) and therefore your ability to size a … 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

Creative Fire Extinguisher #6 – Efficient Use Of Time

In the name of efficiency we are slowly driving fuzzy time out of our day. Fuzzy time is difficult to value because it is hard to attach creative end-product to such ‘unproductive’ time. As corporate managers have become better at measuring the time it takes to do a job, the more fuzzy time gets diverted to the employee’s supposedly personal time. So you want to kill creativity? Maximize measured productivity. How can we protect fuzzy time? How can we make sure it doesn’t get swallowed up by other chores pulling at employees? Through a combination of rewarding creativity and allowing more individualized control over scheduling you can actually empower an employee to lighten up and think more about what they are doing. Of course, CFE #6 automatically puts you on the teeter totter with CFE #7,Waisting Time. (Ahh… encouraging creativity. It’s not easy, but at least it’s fun!)

Creative Fire Extinguisher #5 – The Universal Buy In

Similar to CFE #4 in that it pushes decision making responsibility away from an individual and towards a group is the wonderfully inclusionairy Universal Buy-In. And your manager says, “Go Ye Into The Corporation And Implementeth Thy Idea With The Voluntary Help From All Such Departments That Are Touchethed By Thy Idea Or Hear Of Your Idea Or Simply Who Speaketh Loudly and Catcheth My Ear And Wanteth To Add Imputheth Into Ye Idea That I Liketh So Much.” If you hold a powerful creative spark this may be all the go ahead you need to drive a great idea through the organization. Most of the time, it is simply a great way to freeze things the way they are. Driving change with the voluntary help of various support groups means that if any group decides not to participate for any reason your project is dead. Driving change requires enough management support … Continue reading