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Business owners have wonderful opportunities to make important contributions to their industries. All information you need is at your fingertips and you can skillfully use that information to your advantage.

Daniel Pink has described the coming environment as the Conceptual Age.

“The Conceptual Age is the new era of work where current economic demand calls for workers who are skilled in areas guided by the right hemisphere of the brain including: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play and Meaning”

The primary thing to do is to value the potential of your workers and include creativity and innovation as strong Values in your business building efforts. If you keep these intentions in the minds of all of your business affiliates, you’ll be able to survive and grow in this rapidly changing environment.

Creativity and innovation are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re different.

According to Drew Marshall, 

Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas.” and Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems.” 

So, your business should be able to develop new products or services and also amend, improve or provide extra value to existing systems in your chosen industry. Doing this will help you build your business as an indispensable service to your industry.

You can find opportunities for creativity in many situations. Here’s just a few:

Unexpected conditions such as natural disasters, an unexpected previously reliable national, local or industry system failure.

Demographic changes. Opportunities are available because of changes in numbers, age distribution, education, occupations, location and technology. Such as millions of people being out of work because of artificial intelligence or robots.

New knowledge in the areas of science, technology or sociology offer tremendous opportunities for innovation. Customer awareness and acceptance are the basic challenges when implementing knowledge based creations.

Opportunities for innovation are found in:

Incongruities in system process operation or efficiencies such as incongruities in an educational system or incongruities in your marketing system.

Incongruities between expectations and results such as found in many customer service processes. These process needs can be exploited, simplified or redesigned for your particular industry.

A change in the way people perceive a service or product. According to Peter Drucker “A change in perception does not alter facts, it changes their meaning…It [this perception] can be defined, tested and exploited for innovation opportunity.”

The management strategies you use will significantly impact the outcome of your creative or innovative endeavors. Neil Kokemuller in “Difference Between a Proactive & a Reactive Business Strategy” contrasted proactive and reactive basics for each strategy.

Proactive Basics

“Proactive business strategies are used to achieve predetermined goals. For instance, a proactive marketing strategy carries out research, development and promotional objectives for your business. You outline your message and media strategies within your marketing plan. Companies that want to shift gears or business approaches ahead of an environmental or economic threat also use proactive strategies. For instance, some companies proactively cut budgets ahead of anticipated slowdowns in demand.”

Reactive Basics

“A reactive strategy doesn’t mean your business waits for crises to plan. Instead, you develop a strategy with more of a wait-and-see approach. For instance, if sales decline, the response may be to invest in promotions or a clearance of remaining inventory ahead of a new product launch. In marketing, a reactive strategy is a plan for response in the wake of criticism or negative events that impact your brand.”

In other words, If you are using a proactive strategy you stay abreast of the current and changing trends in your industry. You identify opportunities for you to create or innovate ahead of the changes. You will allot time and resources for proactive activities.

If you use a reactive strategy, you create or innovate in response to additional needs or requirements in your business or industry. Your creative or innovative actions take place only after you identify a need. Theses contributions can be helpful to your industry but seldom put you ahead of others in your discipline.

The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

~Peter Drucker

What are some practical tips for business survival in the Conceptual Age?

Fundamentally, recognize and nourish the creative and innovative potential of all business affiliates.

  1. Stay in touch with your customers. Ask for suggestions. Carefully analyze customer complaints or problems. This is your primary source of creative ideas and it helps you begin with a level of customer acceptance built in. See Peter Drucker’s advice above: define, exploit and test your customer’s perceptions.
  2. Constantly search for trends and new findings in your industry by reading relevant magazines articles and social media posts. Attending conferences will help you remain current. Find other ways to communicate with people in your industry. Adopt a “trend foraging” habit.
  3. Design your overall strategy to include resources for proactivity when creating and innovating.
  4. Always ask “why”. When you’re designing your business systems you can find opportunities for innovation if you answer this question for each element of the system. Why are we using this method? This will lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness. Encourage affiliates to remain curious also.
  5. Encourage and reward creativity and innovation from everyone in your organization. Model the behaviors you require of your affiliates. Demonstrate the creative and innovative process as a part of your management activities. Your training and coaching efforts should also demonstrate creative and innovative activities. There are opportunities in everywhere waiting for new ideas in your industry.

There are no barriers to the amount of information you can obtain to help you build a trend setting business. It only depends on your willingness to constantly study, create and innovate.  Legacy companies do this on a regular basis. It empowers them to continue to contribute. Know the difference between reactive and proactive strategies and choose proactivity. Use practical ways to practice these principles and prevail in your industry. The agility of a small business is perfect for the Conceptual Age!

Related: “9 Ways to Embed Innovation and Creativity Into Your Business Environment”

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