Where Ideas Rule!

Posted: August 5, 2012 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, Startup

Entrepreneurs exude creativity! Right? Every small business owner loves thinking and trying new things. Correct-a-mundo? Well the answer to these questions is a resounding YES, but only for those small businesses who value and nurture new ideas. Many firms seem to have a great culture of innovation and free thinking, and yet, many firms don’. How do you convert your company from a don’ter to a doer?

Start at the top

Embrace new ideas with a passion. Conduct ideas sessions frequently. Constantly look at how to do things better. A great approach to ideation is the I-Power technique. Created by Martin Edelston, it gives the captains of commerce a compass to inspire innovation. Very simply, I-Power takes the old suggestion box off the wall and places it squarely in the center of every group activity in your firm. At every meeting, each attendee must bring an idea on one of the company’s ideas forms. The CEO reviews them personally every weekend, and every one gets paid a dollar for each idea, and two dollars for a great idea. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but for Mr. Edelston, it generated about 30,000 new ideas in one year from his 275 employees. Some were good; some were bad; some were crazy; some were glad. His $30,000 investment in ideas gave everyone the license to think. By the way, one of these ideas saved $750,000 in printing costs . Nice ROI!

Give People Permission

People sometimes fear talking about a new idea because a) people will laugh and they will feel humiliated, b) someone will tell them why it won’t work, or c) the boss will ask them to carry out the new idea (in their spare time, of course!) By giving everyone permission to think ideas freely, you humble the naysayers, and let people’s minds go to work.

Find ideas everywhere or wherever

It’s no surprise that a survey of MBA students rate driving in the car as the number one place they get ideas. They cite factors such as being away from the phone, not concentrating on the problem, and outside stimulus as the reasons that some of their best thoughts arrive behind the steering wheel. Peter Lloyd of the Right Brain Works believes everyone should look for their “Creative Space” — the place where you get your best ideas. Peter surveyed a number of companies about where they get their best ideas, and yet “none of the companies had incorporated into their work routine the simple solution of going to the places they preferred to get their best ideas.” Jerry Malsh, the man who brings us Christmas in summer with his very creative billboard ads, gets his best ideas during his 10 mile walks from two to four in the morning. Jerry says ” that’s when the meteor showers really happen!” [Both physically and mentally!]

Stimulate! Stimulate! Stimulate!

The master creative mind, Doug Hall of the Eureka! Ranch in Newtown, doesn’t believe that any corporation can even think a new thought in the traditional conference room braindraining session. Picture a typical meeting where 15 suits, fresh from their cubicles sit around the oval table thinking up new product ideas. That has Dilbert written all over it. Doug’s wild and crazy sessions include a cadre of trained brains, one for every person to give energy, new perspectives and novel ways. They help connect disparate thoughts in the middle of that forest called work. While you may not be able to afford a trained brain or two, why not bring in someone from accounting, from the shop floor or even one of your customers to take part in idea generation.

Evaluate your idea quotient and start infecting your organization with creative energy! Let us know some of your creative techniques by responding to our blog at www.cincyentre.com!

Bill Cunningham is the CEO of OneMorePallet.com and shop foreman at the Greater Cincinnati Venture Association.

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