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Innovate: Encouraging "Light Bulb" Moments in Your Workplace


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Check out some high- and low-tech ideas to spark innovation that may surprise you with their simplicity. You’ll not only walk away with a fresh viewpoint, but you may be able to turn up the wattage at your very own mental desk.

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Innovate: Encouraging "Light Bulb" Moments in Your Workplace

  1. 1. IN N O VAT E : E N CO U R AG I NG “ L IG H T B U LB ” M O M E N TS I N Y OU R W O R KP L AC E
  2. 2. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S ~ Share This! ~ Post this to your blog, Twitter™, LinkedIn® or Delicious™ accounts or email this to someone who might enjoy it. Share Remix Attribute Share Alike 11639 E. Wethersfield Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85259 USA www.michaelsandassoc. com Toll-free: 877-614-84402 © 2009 by Michaels & Associates Docntrain, Ltd. dba Michaels & AssociatesPage Copyright holder is licensing this under the Creative Commons License, Attribution-Share Alike 3.0. For more information, check out
  3. 3. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SI N NO VAT E : E NC O UR A G I N G “ L IG HT B U L B ”MO M E N T S IN Y O UR W O R KP L A C EWhen‟s the last time you experienced moments of unexpected insight thatcould be called “a light bulb moment ”? Isn‟t it refres hing and energizing whenthat happens? While there‟s no easy way to force these electric ideas tohappen, the common denominators to encourage these moments ofinnovation are people and communication. Using these as a framework , let‟scheck out some high- and low-tech ideas to spark innovation that may surpriseyou with their simplicity. You‟ll not only walk away with a fresh viewpoint, butyou may be able to turn up the wattage at your very own mental desk. 3 Page
  4. 4. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S Bridging the Creativity Gap Corporate creativity is directly related to innovation. By isolating the countless causes of corporat e „creativity gaps,‟ you can play a vital role in boosting innovation. In ot her words, if deficient creative- thinking skills are to blame for a lack of innovative thought, companies can coac h employees to flex their creative muscles and develop more original ideas. And, if the constraints of corporate life are stifling creative endeavors, employers can provide mind -expanding tools and techniques to encourage employees to use their imagination more fully. As you can probably imagine, free-thinking individuals can keep businesses healthy and fiercely competitive with innovative products, services and ideas. While supporting workers in the quest for innovation may be a new role for management, giving employees an extra little push in the right direction may be all that‟s needed. So what‟s causing your own creativity gap? Read on to check out some “innovation legends” that might be influencing you right now.4Page
  5. 5. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SBusting Some MythsIf you‟ve ever watched the television show “MythB usters,” you know that old ideas die hard. One such idea is that of the lone inventor toiling away inthe laboratory and eventually hitting pay dirt with a new discovery. This erroneous idea was explored in a business article presented by Drs. RobCross, Andrew Hargadon, Salvatore Parise and Robert J. Thomas. These researchers pointed out that “… companies continue to assume thatinnovation comes from that individual genius, or, at best, small, sequestered teams that vanish from sight and then return with big ideas. But the truthis most innovations are created through networks — groups of people working in concert.” So even though “individual genius” is a nostalgic way tolook at innovation, the truth is that most of today‟s original ideas stem from group efforts. So, take it from us…this myth is busted!Here‟s another myth that emerges from time to time: small companies can‟t even begin to compete with the big guys,so they shouldn‟t even try. Innovation is actually one of the best ways smaller companies can level the playing field tooffer more to clients than the corporate giants. In fact,a recent study in the UK presented this surprisinginformation: “…small companies with up to fiveemployees are the best at generating new ideas,with half of them giving staff formal thinking time.In contrast, just 13% of the work force in largecorporations sees their ideas regularly taken up.”Is this myth causing your small company‟screativity gap? Consider it busted. 5 Page
  6. 6. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S I‟m sure you‟ve heard this myth before: you need cutting -edge technology to be innovative in today‟s marketplace. In a recent business article, “A True Story About a Chair, ” a fantastic idea stemming from a low-tech approach won out corporate disbelievers. With the manager and a couple of chairs — and nothing else—here‟s how the idea worked:. … [the manager] plopped down t wo chairs in the heart of this busy corporat e campus and put a sign over the t wo chairs calling out a topi c for the day. She occupied one chair and then waited. And waited. And waited for anot her employee to sit down and discuss the topic she had posted. No technology. No motives. Just a person genuinely interested in her co -work er’s thoughts and feelings.… People start ed to sit and talk . One at a time, [the manager] sat and spok e wit h employees. Tak ing notes on employees’ conc erns and feedback , she promised their input would be anonymously passed on to upper management — and it is. Can you believe there are long lines of employees waiting to talk with this inventive and open-minded manager? They trust her honesty and aren‟t bothered at all by the lack of technology or topic to focus on. Spurring employees to innovation can be that simple. It really doesn‟t even require a chair. What it does require is a willingness to communicate and some free time. So now that we‟ve exposed thes e outdated beliefs, let‟s dig in to the real business of “innovation enlightenment” and how to brighten the lights in your own business.6Page
  7. 7. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SHappy Accidents at WorkWhen a team of experts from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute researched some breakthrough innovation projects such as GE‟s di gital X-ray, GM‟shybrid vehicles, and DuPont‟s biodegradable plastics, they discovered most of the ide as came together as the result of “happyaccidents” rather than a purposeful quest for a new product or service. Since this haphazard approach is one that manybusinesses use, it‟s no surprise 75% of executives questioned in recent worldwide surveys were disappointed by theirown company‟s lack of direction for innovation. A renowned California innovation and product design firm, IDEO, hasthis take on the creative process: “Fail oft en to succeed sooner.” It‟s no secret that failures and falsestarts can pave the way to outstanding inventions. The WD-40 Company, forexample, talked to employees and end users to come up with 600 productideas. The initial list was whittled down to 100 possible concepts andfinally to ten leading ideas. In the end, two new products were on themarket in less than two years. A whopping 598 product ideas weredestined to fail! It‟s pretty clear that the very ideas destined for your“round file” right now may actually open the door to a unique solution. 7 Page
  8. 8. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S How can you structure your business so more of these happy accidents occur? After all, ground-breaking ideas don‟t emerge from a vacuum. Robert I. Sutton, writing in the Harvard Business Review in 2001, thinks he might know how to encourage innovation. Here‟s his unusual take: “Hir e naive misfits who argue with you; encourage failure; avoid letting client input limit your vision; and fully commit to risky ventures.” E ven though it sounds wacky and contradictory, he feels this extreme approac h to innovation works by mixing things up in the boring and static office environment. Sutton believes that unconventional employees with diverse backgrounds actually work for a company rather than against it. By challenging the status quo, a few well-positioned “misfits” can inject new life into old problems and mindsets. Think of it as the contrarian approach to innovation. But there‟s more than meets the eye when it comes to innovation approaches. Let ‟s see what the experts say. Opening Eyes, and Minds, to Innovation On the following pages, you can read about some of the best ways to set the stage for creat ive problem solving. E ven though the ideas were compiled from companies that specialize in fields other than training, they could just as easily apply to training and development organizations. Take a look for yourself. A host of tools, tips and techniques are available to cultivate employee innovation!8Page
  9. 9. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SThe Approach: Hire individuals with a non-typical background Want to read more on this topic?How it Works: Look for individuals who have a background that‟s not quite an exact fit for your team. By hiring Access these links for some interesting insights onbright and enthusiastic employees who have “fresh ey es” and may question the status quo, you can rethink encouraging innovation.current approaches and add to the team‟s creative potential.  IDEO “idea cards” spur freeThe Approach: Limit your clients‟ input into projects—or involve customers in new ways thought and association that’s useful in the designHow it Works: According to Robert I. Sutton, ignoring client input may seem counterintuitive, but clients can‟t processalways imagine the full extent of what‟s possible. By involving e very one—even employees not directly involved on cardsa project—and then identifying the best ideas, you‟ll have a broader view of the problem and may strike gold with  “Creativity is a Practice,”a fresh project approach., by C.W.Miller and G.GrazianoIf you do involve the customer, look for different methods of involvement. For ex ample, look outside your own field  “10 Rules for Innovation,”or industry for ideas on how to get input. Automakers, retailers, and consumer electronics manufacturers, for, by Anneinstance, frequently use customer surveys and are often considered the early adopters of innovative techniques. Orban, M.Ed.  “Seven Strategies forConsider creating advisory boards of key customers to serve as sounding boards for ideas. Identify customers Generating Innovation,”who tend to buy the latest versions of your products or services. Ask these early adopters to provide insight about , bywhere the market may be headed and how your organization can best position itself. Robert B. Tucker 9 Page
  10. 10. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S The Approach: Share ideas with coworkers to learn something new How it Works: Encourage employees to get together frequently to share their best ideas with one another. Create a „suggestion box‟ meeting forum where nothing is off limits or not good enough. The Approach: S wap jobs or take on a project that‟s out of the realm of your regular work How it Works: Have employees and managers switch roles every so often just to get a feel for the good— and the bad—about another team‟s processes and business methodologies. Is there a better way to do things? There‟s nothing quit e like walking a mile in another employee‟s shoes to see your own role in a different light. Any effort you make to step out of the realm of your „regular work‟ has a benefit. Just pick a period when work demands are lower than usual so a crisis doesn‟t strike during the job swap. The Approach: Get out of your comfort zone How it Works: Try taking a class that pushes your limits to develop new skills. Using your brain in new ways can also help unlock creativity: take a different route to work, eat at a different lunch spot, brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand or put your clothes on in the dark (but check before heading out the door so there are no “wardrobe malfunctions”). Anything novel can stimulate the brain to form new connections.10Page
  11. 11. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SThe Approach: Involve everyone—at every level of the organizationHow it Works: Include more employees in the process of formulating new product and servic e ideas and insolving organizational problems. Encourage employees to really listen to customers. Listening in oncustomer support calls is another easy way to get a feel for your customers‟ mindset.The Approach: Increase communication and get the right people talking to each ot herHow it Works: E very company has its share of “information magnets” that need to open up and cont ribut etheir knowledge. Figure out what every one inside the company knows —and make sure they talk to peoplewith complement ary talents.The Approach: Reject the “it‟s not my job” mindsetHow it Works: Some employees may have exactly the right range of skills to produce new ideas, but theyaren‟t „allowed‟ to innovate because of limited job roles. Make sure wort hy ideas aren‟t rejected justbecause it‟s “not their job” to come up with good ideas. 11 Page
  12. 12. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S The Approach: Communicate up, across and down Looking for innovative ideas for How it Works: Record the milestones along your path to innovation, and keep everyone in t he company your training organization? Try informed of steps you‟re taking. Let them know that innovation works best when everyone participates, and out these resources when you want continuously encourage communication. to encourage a “light bulb moment.” The Approach: Focus on customer needs that they don‟t always express  : any solution can be How it Works: Learn from customers by observing what they are not doing as well as what they are doing. visually explained in no more than 5 minutes. Along the same lines, listen to what they are not saying as well as what they are saying. Recognize the sources of their frustration and explore potential ways to eliminate it.  : fun, refreshing, plain-spoken study guides & The Approach: Seek ideas from new customer groups teacher resources to get you thinking about new How it Works: Look at your customers and your competitors customers. Instead of looking at only the present, approaches for your own training. look also at the past (former customers) and the future (potential customers). Ask how you might meet those  3 Proven Techniques to Add customers needs. Creativity to Your E-Learning Courses: Based upon Tim The Approach: Involve suppliers in discussions regarding product innovation Browns TED presentation. How it Works: Just as you look to your customers for new ideas, think of your organization as your suppliers customer. You also have needs. Try to nail down your own needs and then get your suppliers idea -generating capacity working in concert wit h yours.12Page
  13. 13. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SThe Approach: Think outside the corporate meeting roomHow it Works: Use technology wisely to conduct productive meetings from multiple locations. Allow teams to co-locate and create an innovationspace that is uniquely theirs. Some companies have designated a special room with an unusual decorating scheme, blog or e -mail listserv designedsolely for group idea sharing. Or, considering taking employees outside on a nic e day for a little project brainstorming over a picnic lunch.The Approach: Have funHow it Works: Facilitate humor, share it and celebrate it. You‟d be surpris ed how many creativedoors this may open.The Approach: Appoint a CEI (Chief Executive Innovator)How it Works: Organizations that rely on innovation to build their company need to seriouslyexamine the climate in whic h idea development takes place and then put someone in chargeof creating that climate.Innovation-adept firms invest in formal innovation sessions, read books, attendseminars, and constantly seek to improve their skills. Your CEI shouldwork with others to identify these opportunities and make themavailable to everyone in your organization. 13 Page
  14. 14. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S The Approach: Tear down the walls How it Works: Large companies can undermine their innovation efforts by keeping workers isolated from other groups. Take down the visible and invisible barriers that s eparate groups from one another and don‟t segregate employees unnecessarily. The Approach: Consider energy dynamics How it Works: If you feel positively about a co-worker, youre more likely to turn to him or her for help and advic e. Generating ideas together isn‟t easy, but people who are paired with others they get along with are more likely to share ideas, strengthen connections and contribute positively to the corporat e “think tank.” Conversely, someone who leaves you feeling drained or irritated can put a damper on innovation. Ask management to map the energy and enthusiasm in their net works by asking people to identify who leaves them feeling positive and energized. The Approach: Develop corporate folklore How it Works: Encourage senior management to tell stories, create an innovation-focused folklore, and actively counteract the „anti-innovation‟ syndrome. They can also provide support and tools for the various components of the company to cultivate an inn ovation-friendly climate.14Page
  15. 15. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T SWant to increase your own po tential for innovation? Try these quick, fun activities: Count to 100: Stimulate your senses: Make a list of the first 100 ideas or Do something that involves as many of your senses as thoughts that come to your mind. They possible. For example, go to an arb oretum, go for a don’t have to be related in any way; the drive in the country, visit an art museum or get purpose is to generate unfiltered a massage. By stimulating your b ody thoughts that may lead to something and mind, you may just turn on that mental bigger and better. light b ulb . Get colorful: Embrace the silence: Did you know that yellow inspires creativity? Try adding some yellow Go somewhere comfortab le—inside or outside—and turn to your workspace, or spend off the TV or radio. Be alone with your thoughts, and allow some time in a place with them to wander. There are plenty of ideas already swirling yellow walls or furniture. around in the b ack of your b rain—you just have to quiet down and let them come to the front. 15 Page
  16. 16. I N N O VA T E : EN C O U R AG IN G “ L I G H T B U LB ” M O ME N T S Do Something Better As you‟ve seen, innovation isn‟t a quest to be taken lightly. Companies need to be fully pre pared for today‟s competitive environment, and inno vation is one of the best ways to increase the chances of success. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Ted Hoff, inventor of the mic roprocessor, had these words of wisdom: “Don‟t do what the customer wants; do something better.” How‟s that for innovative thinking? If you would like to know more about how your own team can be more productive and innovative, contact us. We‟re here to help! Michaels & Associates — where innovative ideas happen every day. marketing@michaelsandassoc. com toll-free: 877-614-844016Page