A weekly newsletter on creativity, ideas, innovation and invention.
Tuesday, 29 June 2004
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your weekly newsletter on Creativity, ideas, innovation and invention.
As always, if you have news about creativity, idea innovation or invention please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
THE CREATIVE ENTHUSIAST
It goes with out saying that every organisation should employ a few creative thinkers. However, there is one kind of creative thinker who is particularly appealing for any organisation: the creative enthusiast.
The creative enthusiast, like any creative thinker, is full of innovative ideas. However, she has a few traits which make her particularly appealing:
- She gets excited about ideas, not just her own, but other people's as well.
- She credits people who come up with ideas as well as those who help her develop ideas.
- She enjoys sharing ideas with others.
- She is easy-going socially and has a good sense of humour.
As a result of these traits, she brings out the creative spirit in others. Her enthusiasm and love of ideas encourages others around her to share ideas. That she gives credit where credit is due means that people trust her with their ideas. Her sense of humour means that any ideation session with her is jolly good fun.
Who are the creative enthusiasts in your firm? Are you making best use of them?
THE NECESSITY OF CHAOS
Every day, businesses have to deal with an ever increasing collection of data: customer data, product data, legislation, human resources and more. Much more. As a result, most businesses are focusing more and more on applying structured order to their data. Wide spread use of databases has facilitated and strengthened this application of order.
Too much order, however, is not necessarily a good thing – at least when it comes to innovation.
Creativity can be defined as applying two or more seemingly unrelated concepts together to create an all new concept. Implementing that new concept results in innovation. In a state of chaos, such unrelated concepts come together all the time.
Order, on the other hand, is about organising similar concepts together and separating them from seemingly unrelated concepts.
What is a company to do? Abolishing all order in hopes of achieving a higher level of creativity is impractical to say the least. You would end up with an extremely creative company that accomplishes nothing and that is bad for cash flow!
The trick is to inject a suitable dose of chaos into every company's operations. There are a number of ways of doing this.
At the individual level, nothing can beat diversified reading for introducing a variety of new concepts that can be combined with a company's (or, indeed, an individual's) operations. Note, the emphasis is on “diversified”. Reading only material related to your work activities will only bring ideas other people have already had. Reading material about other industries and other disciplines will open your mind to new concepts and introduce a little chaos to your personal knowledge base.
Of course, a lot of creative people are naturally chaotic. Their desks are inevitably a total mess, their files would horrify any respectable secretary and their conversations can go from one subject to another without warning. Every company should have a few of these people about to inject a bit of chaos into the works. Rather than pressuring such people to get organised, they should be allowed to operate at their preferred level of chaos.
At the enterprise level, it is critical to bring people from different divisions and with different backgrounds together to discuss issues and solve problems. Regular readers of Report 103 will have heard this advice many times before. But, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of bringing new thinking into social groups in order to introduce a bit of chaos. People with diverse backgrounds and expertise is the most effective means of doing this.
Likewise, idea management solutions (such as our Jenni enterprise idea management web application – www.jpb.com/jenni/) that allow unrestricted enterprise-wide submission of, and collaboration on, ideas can bring a wee bit of chaos to any company's idea pool.
At the very top, operational strategy is the responsibility of the CEO. Often, a touch of chaotic thinking can produce innovative strategies. In the 1980s, for instance, the CEO of Taco Bell (an American based, Mexican style fast food chain) decided to think about operations in manufacturing terms rather than fast food terms. Taco Bell outsourced as much food preparation as possible to suppliers, centralised production of key components and focused on assembly rather than production in its restaurants. The result was decreased costs and increased customer satisfaction. What more could a fast food operator ask for?
It is also the CEO's responsibility to look for synergies within an organisation's operations as well as potential synergies that would result from acquiring an existing organisation. Applying chaotic thinking, by bringing together very different organisations and developing synergies between them can have remarkable results. Unfortunately, the risk of bringing diversified organisations together, combined with businesses tendency to focus on competencies means such mergers are becoming increasingly rare.
On a personal level, I have been toying with the idea of a software tool that would browse database tables and pull up unrelated cells (a single unit of information in a database table). Much of the time, the results would be useless. But, from time to time you could expect some really interesting combinations. However, this has been more of an intellectual exercise rather than a potential product from jpb.com. So do not place your orders yet!
Speaking of chaos, here's an idea for you: once every two or three months, randomly select around a dozen people from your company. Invite them to a meeting to discuss an issue such as how to streamline operations, how to improve customer service or how to make working for your company even better. The random mix of people should bring some interesting results. Try it!
INNOVATION THE MOST EFFECTIVE ADVERTISING?
A recent Deutsche Bank study claims that television is not an effective means for promoting mature products. Indeed, the report essentially states that such advertising is a waste of money. Only new products saw some effectiveness from TV advertising. Nevertheless, the report concluded that “increased levels of marketing spending were LESS important than having NEW ITEMS on the shelf and increasing distribution.” (My emphasis.) In short, rather than blowing your marketing budget on advertising, you should focus on developing new products and getting them into the shops.
That makes sense. These days we are are so bombarded by advertising messages
that most of us just tune them out. But, when we are actually in the shop, ready
to buy a particular kind of product, we are likely to be attracted to a new
product that offers (or claims to offer) benefits over the competition's offerings.
I expect, however, the advertising industry will strongly disagree with Deutsche Bank's findings. TV advertising is simply too lucrative for them to be willing to give it up.