9 Ways To Embed Innovation and Creativity Into Your Business Environment

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We are living in a unique time for business building and innovation. Every thing we need to build a business is at our fingertips. The money isn’t always available, but the ‘how to’ resources are free for everybody to access. The uniqueness of our times offers the opportunity to build businesses but our dynamic environment is extremely challenging. As you build your business, you must continue to be innovative and creative regardless.

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.”  As you build your business, you’re required to consistently create and innovate. This seems to be an almost impossible task. It just adds to the many things already on your plate.

So it seems logical that you should stabilize whatever you can and contain your business activities within some kind of solid framework not easily shaken. This happens when you clearly define your Mission, Values, Systems and Vision. These elements will remain constant in spite of changes of any kind, creative, innovative or imposed. One or more of your Systems will go through change but the stability of your Mission, Values, Vision and other Systems will keep you grounded. This stability will help you survive and prosper because your business processes will fit into this firmly engrained mold. Without this framework, you can become pulled in all directions and achieve nothing your Vision described.

As your framework is becoming firmly rooted in your business activities, you also embed the principles of innovation and creativity into you everyday activities. In other words, everybody in your business will understand that you intend to keep up with the current trends in your industry as well as create new ones. You’ll need to shape your working environment (culture) to support innovation and creativity in all areas of your enterprise. You will not only stay in the game but you can be proactive and become a leader in your discipline.

“Innovation [and creativity] only happens in the right environment, one where everyone is not only allowed to innovate, but they are actively encouraged to speak up and bring new ideas to the table. This may sound like common sense, but it is far from common practice.” Kotter International

9 Ways to Embed Innovation and Creativity into Your Business Environment

1. Create an environment that supports innovation as well as creativity. How? Build a collaborative environment where people are free to ask questions and make suggestions. They should feel included in most of the important things concerning the business. It also helps to make questioning an important part of your everyday processes.

2. Thoroughly train new affiliates and new hires on the importance of innovation at all levels and across all Systems in your organization.

3. Include innovation and creativity as job responsibilities in your job descriptions across all jobs and positions.

4. Set ground rules, ex. adequate research before presenting an idea or clarify the impact on the other Systems in the proposal. Pilots, prototypes or practice runs could also be a requirement. Make sure that everybody knows and follows the ground rules.

5. Use customer complaints and suggestions for inspiration to create or innovate.

6. Become a model innovator. Share your procedures, questioning, successes and failures. This is a valuable way to train creative process and ground rules to your employees.

7. Understand that failure is a part of the innovation and creativity processes. You can set limits for timelines and resources to help keep control.

8. Develop reward Systems for successes as well as failures. For example, there can be recognition and more authority for successes and some kind of special recognition for failures to show the importance of attempting to innovate. Research the best rewards for employees. A feeling of freedom and purpose is often reward enough for most people.

9. Use change management skills to implement the innovations in your business. This determines how much your organization and others will benefit from the new practice.

Entrepreneurs and start ups are required to use their “super powers” to build a business from the ground up and continually create and innovate while responding to rapid change. Whew! That’s a lot, but it can be accomplished. In fact, it must be accomplished for survival in this “Conceptual Age” as described by Daniel Pink. Building some type of stability is required. If you design and fortify your business framework, you can control and direct your actions or reactions to this rapidly changing environment. Sharpen your management skills and manage well.

Easy to follow Management Skills and Development Guides in “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

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5 Practical Tips for Business Survival in the Conceptual Age

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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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4 Guides to Test the Feasibility of Your Innovation

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“Innovation is the specific function of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business, a public service institution, or a new venture started by a lone individual in the family kitchen. It is the means by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.” Peter Drucker

The future is fast approaching and we are right in the middle of tremendous change and opportunity. The tools needed for creating a grand future are in the hands of almost everybody. The “Goggle Library” and “You Tube” university provide all the knowledge we need to create new products and services to benefit society.

 

If you have a big dream and vision it would help to test it against a few attributes to determine the viability of your idea. There are many ways to evaluate your project. Here are just a few attributes to consider. According to Branden Kelley in “Innovation is All About Value” “Innovation transforms the useful seeds of invention into solutions valued above every existing alternative..and [is] widely adopted.”

The first test could be to determine if your innovation falls within one of the seven areas of innovation as defined by Peter Drucker.

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

2. Incongruities in system, process, operation or efficiencies such as incongruities in an educational system.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. A change in the way people perceive a service or product. According to 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.” Such as a change in the perception of the value of computers over time.

6. Rapid industry growth. Changes are occurring at a faster rate than large businesses can handle. This gives the startup or entrepreneurial venture a real advantage. They can enter the market without competition for long periods of time.

7. 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 innovations

Therefore, the second test is to determine if the innovation is valuable to its potential customers. All types of market research is available to help you assess potential customer value. For example, will your product or service simplify or improve the customer experience in an industry?

The third test is to determine if the innovation is simple enough and small enough to implement. According to Drucker “To be effective, an innovation has to be simple, and it has to be focused. It should do only one thing; otherwise it confuses people. Indeed, the greatest praise an innovation can receive is for people to say, ‘This is obvious! Why didn’t I think of it? It’s so simple!’ Even the innovation that creates new users and new markets should be directed toward a specific, clear, and carefully designed application. Effective innovations start small.”

The fourth test would be whether or not potential customers already know the value of your innovation or will you need to educate and convince them of the value of your offering. Example, many education officials may not realize the preeminence of the ability to read and adopt continuous learning (as a set of skills) because of the ever increasing speed of change. Consequently, they may not realize the inherent value of any innovation around this skill set

Change is an inevitable force in our dynamic environment. Don’t fight it. Knowing how to manage change as an opportunity for innovation as you grow your small business will be a valuable skill that will put you far ahead of your competition. If you are unprepared for change, you could face disastrous business results. Human nature resists change. That’s the first obstacle you must face. Now also consider this, when building a sustainable enterprise one of your priorities should be to consistently engage in Proactive Innovation. In other words, you’re causing self imposed change. This greatly increases the change your enterprise will encounter. So how can you survive with this much change surrounding you? First of all, you must adopt the perspective that you willefficiently handle the uncertainty in this dynamic environment while initiating Proactive Innovation considering the feasibility tests as described above. You can, if you keep a Change Management framework in mind as you move through these circumstances. Next, your Purpose/Mission must be strongly shared throughout your venture. Additionally, your Values must be the principles used to operate everything in your venture. If they are not in place, managing any kind of change will be difficult.

Consider these guides and recommendations to enjoy successful innovations.

For foundation building see “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die

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