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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Some thoughts on improving innovation for your company

The one thing that I admire the Chinese companys for is the there ability to long term plan, the goverment has 50 and 100 year road maps detailing where they want to be as a country, there corporations have the same vision as well, it may be hard for a start up of 3 or 4 people to think out 100 years, most fo us do not get beyond the 3 and 5 year business plans for funding,but if we are to survive and grow as companies you need to take time and think about what do you want your company to be doing over the next 10 years, how will your company add value in say 10 years to the market place you play in. This following post will give you some ideas on how to grow your road map and build a company culture that has innovation at it's centre.
Unleash the Innovator Within:
By Charlie Fleetham

One of the greatest challenges facing today's entrepreneurs is finding and growing the type of innovative thinking your companies need to survive. But with the right approach, you can uncover hidden leadership and strategic capabilities in both you and your employees. Skeptical? You shouldn't be. Here are five key ways to unleash the hidden potential in your business and achieve high levels of success:

1. Think two generations ahead. Envision your company 50 or even 100 years from now, even if you don't foresee your product or service lasting that long. Such forward-looking reflection creates an umbrella for long-term innovation to occur.
Action Task
Working back from your 50- or 100-year vision plan in 10-year increments, ask and answer the critical "who, what, where, when, why and how" questions about your business. For instance, who will your target demographic be; what will your core products and business focus be; where will your office(s) and facilities be located (nationally or globally); when will key business milestones be achieved, why will your business matter 10, 15 or 50 years from now and how are you going to achieve your business goals.
2. Confront and partner with the unconscious. Experts suggest that of all the experiences, knowledge and data stored in our minds, we are only "conscious" of and actively use just 10 percent of it. The other 90 percent resides in our "unconscious"--it's this part of our mind we can tap into for valuable insights.
Action Task
Daily, for the next 21 days, write one paragraph about some aspect of your leadership process that you want to improve. For example, let's say you find it difficult to take negative feedback from your customers. The more you write about the situation, the more you'll tap your unconscious for innovative ideas about solving the problem.
3. Aim to increase energy, not just efficiency. Do a quick energy audit of your employees to understand what energizes the staff and fuels their personal growth. If you understand what energizes them, you'll be able to implement actions that motivate your employees and increase productivity.
Action Tasks
Ask every employee to identify the three things that energize him or her the most about their jobs. Also ask them to identify the things they're not currently doing that would energize them. Then match your employees to the energizing activities that best fit their talents and skills and needs.
Also ask your staff to identify the three things that steal their energy, such as meetings or preparing reports. Help your management team reduce the activities that de-energize the workplace.
4. Establish the freedom to innovate. Creativity drives change. So tap into your employees' intuitive side by ritualizing "ingenuity time" on the job. Utilizing creative techniques can often help people see issues more clearly and open doors to potential solutions.
Action Tasks
Set aside enough money in your budget for your team to compete for an industry-related contest. It will keep your top people on their toes.
Encourage people to draw a diagram or depiction of their business problem or challenge in the form of a character or situation (such as a person headed into a storm or an animal confronting a group of hostile animals). Then ask that they sketch the conclusion they envision that would resolve the matter. Seeing their problem put to life often helps people envision the best solution.
Enable and encourage your employees to volunteer for community projects and social events to round out their work-life balance in meaningful ways.
5. Start all problem-solving by taking responsibility. Any problem you're directly involved with that you wish to solve requires reflection on your role and responsibility related to that problem. While you may not be the primary cause of the problem, reflecting on your role will help you better understand and acknowledge how you may have contributed to it.
Action Tasks
When you have a problem employee, start the fix by asking yourself: "What changes do I have to make in myself to help this person perform better?" You may not always identify something that needs changing, but the mere matter of asking and spending some time on reflecting will make you a better leader.
When you have to deliver bad news, like a layoff, be sure you tell the survivors what you're doing to retain and reward the employees remaining and keep the lines of
communications open so that people are aware of key company developments.

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