Leaders constantly strive to increase efficiency, improve quality, implement best practice and deliver increased performance. Their goal is make the current business model work better. They seek to improve profitability through efficiencies of scale and cost reductions. But there are limits to cost saving. In a global economy your competitors in lower-cost countries can beat you at that game. The best way to create value is to innovate your way ahead of the competition. You need to find new business models that create temporary monopolies where yours is the only show in town. You can do this by harnessing the creative power of your greatest asset, your people. The goal is to turn them into opportunistic entrepreneurs who are constantly looking for new ways of doing business.
A copy-machine operator at Kinko’s, a major chain of outlets providing copying and document services, noticed that customer demand for copying dropped off in December. People were too pre-occupied with Christmas presents to do much copying for the office. So he came up with a creative idea. Why not allow customers to use Kinko’s colour copying and binding facilities to create their own customized calendars using their personal photos for each of the months? He prototyped the idea in the store and it proved popular – people could create personalized gifts of calendars featuring favourite family photos. The operator phoned the founder and CEO of Kinko’s, Paul Orfalea, and explained the idea. Orfalea was so excited by it that he rushed it out as a service in all outlets. It was very successful and a new product – custom calendars – and a new revenue stream were created.
This kind of creative energy should be the goal for every organization. How can you make all your staff into creative entrepreneurs like the operator in Kinko’s? How can you energize people to see problems not as obstacles to success but as opportunities for innovation?
The key elements of creating a truly innovative and entrepreneurial organization can be summarized in the following eight steps:
1. Paint an inspiring vision.
2. Build an open, receptive, questioning culture.
3. Empower people at all levels.
4. Set goals, deadlines and measurements for innovation.
5. Use creativity techniques to generate a large number of ideas.
6. Review, combine, filter and select ideas.
7. Prototype the promising proposals.
8. Analyze the results and roll-out the successful projects
To build a truly innovative organization you need to have a vision, a culture and a process of innovation. It is the innovations of today that become the best practices of tomorrow.
Paul Sloane give keynote and after-dinner talks on lateral thinking and innovation.