Finding time to create # 3 Generate value upfront

Inside the money machine
Inside the money machine. Image by Yodel Anecdotal via Flickr

Times like these draw the best out of us. We need to dig deep and pull on our inner resources. Wealth and value creation take on a new importance. What are we doing to increase our sales? How much money are we leaving on the table? How can we get our products faster to market? What innovations on the backburner can we fast forward? Are our selling and promotion campaigns achieving the results we require? How can we transform our hobbies and interests into money making opportunities?

It takes more than hard work in tough times. Innovation is more important than we think. Joe Vitale points out in “The 7 lost secrets of success” that Bruce Barton, the second “B” in BBDO (the famous Batten, Barton, Durstine, and Osborn agency), became chairman of the board of BBDO in September 1928 when the agencies became one. The agency had 113 clients, 600 employees, and billings of $32.6 million in their first year — the first year of the Great Depression. Can you believe that? A business based on ideas making truckloads of money in the worst of times.

You may have all the best intentions in the world. You may have decided that you want to be more creative and produce more ideas to benefit your personal or business life. You may be inspired to create more ideas. Now what? You’ve got your week laid before you and have decided that you will spend a half an hour each morning to produce ideas.

Monday comes – you wake up late. Monday evening you are too tired to think creatively about generating ideas. Just as well because you can’t force creativity. Tuesday comes around and you have a meeting at eight o’clock and will to wake up half an hour early if you want to produce ideas. Perhaps you could find a quiet place with the right atmosphere to produce ideas. And so it goes.

Viewing producing ideas as some activity that you have to do at set, allocated times can be too forced, out of kilter with the inner human creative process. For those who are extremely self disciplined, it can help to allocate a set time. Creativity can’t be viewed as some add on to your life: it needs to be part of your way of living. Let me explain.

Almost anything you do every day can benefit from creative thinking. If you are planning a project, an event, a consulting proposal, a creative work such as a painting, a photographic shoot – all of these will have greater impact with pre-thinking, visualisation and imagining possibilities. You need to build creativity into important tasks in a seamless way.

With many tasks to do in a week, how can you find time to produce more creative ideas?

How do you integrate creativity into the most relevant or high impact processes where you hope to achieve amazing results? You are planning an important project. Do you just go ahead in the usual way? Perhaps you need to rethink what you’ve been doing. Is it still relevant? Does it give you maximum impact? Is it the most cost-effective way? Have you maximised the benefits for all involved? Will it make money?

By sitting down perhaps in a quiet place such as a coffee shop before you start dashing out your list of activities for your project, you could brainstorm, mindmap or perform a clustering exercise for 10 minutes. Right there, before you begin your project you can engage in a creative process. If you’re not familiar with using creativity tools like freewriting, you may not benefit from your first few attempts. Try it a few times and you could be amazed at the ideas you produce.

Why go to this trouble? With stiff competition for better, smarter and more cost-effective ways of doing things that stand out, you need to raise your game.

You can inject creativity into just about anything you do if you want superior results. Use creativity tools and techniques before you start anything important – a proposal, a sales letter, a business strategy.

Find out what works best for you. By placing creative processes at the forefront of your routine and new projects, you stand a much better chance of producing outstanding, profitable results.

Idea Prompt

1. Evaluate your projects. Make a list. Prioritise your top three projects.

2. Take your most important project and freewrite for 10 minutes on ideas to create more value. Or, if you don’t have time to look up what freewriting is all about, just list 21 ideas fast.

3. Select your best idea and include it in your project to generate greater value.

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Finding time to create #2 The secret of 10 minutes focused attention

Starting up again (3 of 4)
Image by Unhindered by Talent via Flickr

Under pressure, time never seems to be on one’s side. You have many projects to complete but they all seem to merge into an endless torrent of deadlines, one after the other. Work piles up. One of your projects you have given little time to. You just can’t seem to get around to sitting down and getting to grips with it.

You finally decide you will spend just 10 minutes on it. You sit down with your file, your notes, calculator, pad and pen and think through what you are going to do. Suddenly, you have the solution. Ideas come to you and you become interested about completing the project. You make a list of people to call, tasks to complete, resources you will need and a workflow plan.

You are surprised how quickly you sorted things out after just not being able to get around to kick-starting your project. It only took 10 minutes and you were thinking that it would take you hours.

What’s going on here? Why did tackling this project seem like such a mountain to climb? What lessons does it hold for creativity, ideation and innovation?

Under stress it is hard to bring ourselves around to work on projects that we may believe only offer us marginal prospects for gain. How do we know that these projects we have placed low on our priority list have low value until we examine their potential and possibilities? We often tend to put these projects on the backburner because we just have too much to handle. We don’t recognise that money likes fast action when it flows and we can’t let things wait for weeks or longer.

Another thing is that we try to do some of the thinking about a delayed project in our heads. That’s fine up to a point but the result is that we can become overwhelmed carrying all the details in our brain. It’s much easier to sit down relaxed with a piece of paper or an electronic screen and put down all our thoughts where they are easy to see. The whole project becomes more manageable.

The other important insight is that with a white-hot focus we can block distractions and concentrate our minds and imagination on one project, giving it our full attention. Our mind can process information so quickly in this way that it seems unbelievable.

Brief periods of concentrated attention can help you speed up and complete projects at a rate you may have previously thought impossible. A timer (on your cell phone) or a kitchen timer — but without the distracting ticking sound — helps you block out well defined time periods of, say, 10 minutes to work on important projects. It is not necessary to complete the phase of your project in 10 minutes. If you haven’t completed what you set out to do in 10 minutes, start another 10-minute session — and another, if necessary. The main point is to focus your mind with a laser-sharp intensity so that you can give your full attention to the task at hand.

Concentrated periods of 10 minutes or more may seem artificial, even contrived. But when you try them out, you will find that your ideas flow more rapidly. Ideas you never thought of may well rise to the surface of your conscious mind. You will also be simply amazed at how fast your mind can really work and the outstanding results that you are able to produce when you coax your mind into working for you.

Idea Prompt

As a brief exercise, time yourself for two minutes and think about all the main elements that you will require for a project. Next, write down the tasks on a mind map (or on a program such as PersonalBrain), cluster map or simply use a list – whatever works best for you — in two minutes. Think again about your list of items without looking at your map or list, going through the items in your mind for two minutes. Do new items crop up? After the two minutes, place them on your map or list. (You may find ideas popping into your mind the next day — add them to your map or list.) Review what you have achieved in eight minutes. If you haven’t done this exercise yet, do it now and see how incredibly well it works. Should it not work the first time, try again on another project.

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Finding time to create # 1: Why it matters

Stopwatch
Image by wwarby via Flickr

You want to increase the impact of your work but it’s almost impossible most of the time to raise your game. You believe you should be more creative in your work but can’t find the time to sit down and think. You must start a new project but you don’t want to outline your thoughts at your desk because it just doesn’t feel creative. You try to find the time to get started but you just can’t.

What’s going on here? What’s preventing you from being more creative in your work? Do you need to be more disciplined? Is it because you haven’t established a routine and you are all over the place? Could it be a psychological block? Is it really about not having time?

It’s got harder to find the time to be creative because of the growing number of distractions in the workplace. Some studies say we get interrupted at work every eight minutes. Distractions make it much harder to focus and concentrate on important work, the work you get recognised and rewarded for and which gives you the greatest satisfaction. It’s a lot easier to turn to lighter tasks and amusements. No matter how much you convince yourself that social media will be significant in the future, your important work remains the core of your value to yourself and the marketplace.

So where do we look? Time management. This could be the panacea we’ve been looking for. But wait. We remember all those times we tried time management programmes and what happened? We found that it’s almost impossible to control our time despite keeping detailed time-planners when so many other things demand our attention – e-mails, follow-up work on projects, proposals, projects, people calling us on our landlines and then on our cell phones when our landlines are engaged, sms’s, BlackBerry messages and even tweets to get our attention. Do we really control our time or do interruptions control us?

We know we are smart – we can get a grip on this time thing and take charge of our lives. Our next search takes us into the whole personal qualities trap. We are out of control because we need more self-discipline. We’ll work ourselves out of our trap with better personal qualities. Soon we begin to realise that self-discipline is not enough. The onslaught of distractions, the demands, the deadlines, keep coming. We begin to feel overwhelmed. There must be a better way, we say to ourselves.

If you doubt the need for creativity just consider the challenges of modern living and working. Creative thinking is required more than ever in the past. Economic decline and stagnation means the need for better products and services, more cost-effective marketing with better results. Natural resources under threat requires new thinking for cars, homes, architectural design, consumer appliances and industrial processes. Sustainable products need to be made with less and be functionally superior. Design becomes far more important in a marketplace with many similar products vying for attention. Media and entertainment requires innovation to new forms of pleasurable distraction such as computer games, social media, downloading music, podcasts and videos.

In the next blog post, part of a series on “The secret to finding time to create”, we will further explore what prevents us from making the creative process part of our personal and work lives.

Idea prompt

Below are some questions that may help you to understand better your existing beliefs, processes and habits. Think through the questions that intrigue you and write down the answer to the question that most affects your life right now:

  • What associations do you have with being creative? Does the word “creative” disturb you?
  • What does being creative mean to you – wild thoughts and ideas or coming up with something fresh and amazing that can be put to use?
  • How important is it to you to be more creative in your personal and business life?
  • Where and when do you come up with your best ideas?
  • Where could you benefit most from being creative in your personal and professional life?
  • How well do you control distractions?
  • What controls your time?
Related articles

Creative Distractions (lisarivero.com)

The Prisoner’s Dilemma: The Key to Creativity (blogs.forbes.com)

How to Lose Yourself in Your Writing (lisarivero.com)

Successful time management. (xemion.com)

4 Creative ways to Start Your Day (leadershipfreak.wordpress.com)

How To Enhance Creativity Part 2: Unlocking The Secrets Of The Unconscious (entrepreneurs-journey.com)

Exploring the outer limits of e-book prices

Scan of modern reproduction of The Birds of America (edited and color-corrected)Exploring the outer limits of e-book prices Imagine you could acquire advice to make money, save money, gain knowledge, enjoy happier relationships and be more healthy. If your interest in any one of these areas is high, you might be willing to stretch your budget to the max and buy the advice whether in a magazine, book or from a trusted and respected professional adviser.

Without the means to pay for such specialised knowledge, you would probably ask advice from someone you know or try to find it for free from the Internet or a free downloadable PDF. But would this information be of high enough quality to make a significant impact in your life?

What if you require more in-depth, well-researched information laid out in easily digestible chunks that rapidly add to your knowledge on the subject? What if the information could help produce ideas for new additional income or shape your life in ways you never dreamed possible?

What would you be willing to pay for such information? How high would you go?

The answers to these questions depend on how hungry or desperate you are to gain the information and what impact or difference you are seeking in your life. When, for instance, you need to pass a crucial exam that would make a meaningful difference to your life and livelihood, you may up the stakes. I once paid what I thought was an outrageous price for an international book on finance. It was a crucial primer on a subject that was new to me but I knew that it would help me to pass the subject for my degree in business administration.

Books rise in price depending on the value of their content and how rare they are.

I thought the book on finance was outrageous until I came across the e-book for “Comprehensive Structural Integrity” at $18,304. Value is in the eye of the beholder. This book must contain very specialised information to sell at this price. Perhaps the main buyers are professional firms.

Another e-book that has an astronomical (if that’s the correct word) price of $6400 for the Kindle edition. It’s titled “Selected Nuclear Materials and Engineering Systems”. One buyer was pleased with the purchase. “I had to sell my car and take out an equity loan on my house to buy this book, but it was worth every penny,” the buyer wrote on The Digital Reader.

Some books hold high intrinsic value because they are so rare. A copy of “Birds of America” recently fetched $11.5 million in an auction in London. This book – a 170-year-old collection of life-size bird paintings – is hardly expected to land up as an e-book. Comics have high value when they are rare and in mint condition. A copy of “Action Comics #1”, published in June 1938, which introduced Superman was bought by an anonymous buyer for $1,000,000 in February 2010. Another copy was sold for $1.5 million at an auction in the same year. Another comic book has joined the $1 million club. A copy of Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug ‘62), the first appearance of Spider-Man, sold for $1.1 million on 7 March in a private sale.

The costs of publishing e-books may be lower than conventional publishing but the expenditure involved in researching and writing the book can be huge. An enormous investment in time is required. The specialisation and writer’s reputation (which also require enormous investment over time). It’s expensive and time-consuming to promote e-books, despite what pundits say.

Some consumers show price sensitivity to e-book’s higher than $9.99 but what is the real price of a specialised e-book? What if the book is written by a specialist in the field with proven success? We’re not talking about a textbook with generalised information but by an expert who has practised what they have written about and taught it successfully to others who have benefited significantly from it.

An e-book, whether it’s price (excluding the highly specialised exceptions such as the two mentioned above) is a fraction of the cost of a seminar hosted by an author. A day’s workshop with the author would be extremely rich and rewarding. Two authors recently held a three-hour morning talk at a cost of $370. The book on the subject cost $15. It’s hard to argue against the impact of seeing and experiencing the authors in-person but the book gives you valuable and actionable information that you can refer to repeatedly and at any time.

How much would you pay for an e-book that offers you proven techniques for producing ideas? How much would you be willing to pay for a book prepared after hundreds of hours of research and years of successful application? What if this book could lead you to produce streams of income, give you greater personal freedom and peace of mind? What if the book could shave off years of painstaking trial and error and heartbreak.

Whatever the price of such a book, the potential value from such a book is inestimably higher than the initial purchase price will ever be. Ultimately it’s for the customer to decide.

Don’t read this if you already have a money machine

How do you make cash flow from your start-up produce or service business? Your idea for a new business may be like no other (or so you think). You’ve put a lot of creative thought into producing your product or service. But how much thought and research have you put into your business model?

What’s that? A business model? If you have already turned your dream business into a money machine, don’t bother to read on. But if business models sound like gobbledegook , you may find yourself reading every word of this post. 

A business model is really the way that you go about offering and selling your product or service to customers. It allows you to maximise the money you receive for your idea, leaving nothing on the table. Before you get carried away at the many variants and flavours that business models come in, remember this: the best business model delivers a fantastic product or service to your customer at an unbelievable price. 

Ideas for income streams need to be based on innovative business models. Competition is incredibly fierce, especially on the Internet where business models can be copied and implemented within 24 hours or less. Many Internet businesses are probably not generating the revenue streams that owners would like.

Coming up with an innovative business model can take as much creative thought as your original breakthrough idea for a product or service. 

Many basic business models have been around for a long time. Selling products from a stall or store where customers come to collect their goods goes back a long way. Another is advertising – newspapers and magazines offer content to a target market. Advertisers are attracted to promote their products and services in a focused environment of potential buyers. Subscriptions, another well used business model, can be found behind many products and services, not just editorial products. Insurance — you pay a monthly or annual fee for an unanticipated financial or asset (cars, household goods, homes, aircraft, yachts, just about anything) loss. Another business model is monthly annuity income – even telephone companies charge a fixed monthly rental – in addition to usage charges. Tolls dip into pockets and extract their share but be careful with this one as customers don’t like to knowingly have money taken from them in this way. 

There are many business models and ways of looking at them. Any one of them can help you to better understand business models, especially if it sparks an idea to innovate yours. For kitchen-table start-ups taking an idea from pure concept to implementation means coming up with an innovative business model that will make money and be acceptable to your customers. You just want to flip the light switch, not have to delve into all the business theory.

That said, a useful business model definition is detailed in the article “Reinventing Your Business Model (HBR, Dec. 2008, p. 50 – 59). The business model consists of four interlocking elements that create and deliver value: customer value proposition, profit formula, key resources and key processes. The first two parts define value for the customer and the company and the other two describe how to deliver value to the customer and company.

To rethink your own business model ask yourself these questions:

 1.     What value does my product or service provide?

2.     How will my business make a profit?

3.     What resources will my business need to deliver my great product or service?

4.     How can my business effectively operate to deliver great value at an unbelievable price?

Let’s put business models into perspective – to remove some of the mystery. What sort of business model does a company have that goes from a market cap of $288 million in 2002 to $9.18 billion in 2010? We’re talking about Netflix. It sells movies by mail order and over the Internet. The business model to begin with has been mail order but in recent years with the introduction of Internet streaming Netflix sells through a subscription business model ($9 a month subscription fee). Revenues have risen from $272 million in 2003 to $2.1 billion in 2010.

Take a look again at the questions above: value for both business models (mail order rental business and Internet streaming) is important to the customer, profit comes from delivering value through effective mail order operations and innovating technology to video stream at a price acceptable to people who wish to watch movies direct from the Internet. (By the way don’t confuse a business model with a revenue model. A revenue model is the number of products you sell x the price.) 

Even established companies challenged by the economy and competition will be looking at innovating their business models but understandably with caution. Start-ups have the advantage of being able to trial, run field tests and even test markets to prove their business models. 

As you go about devising your business model, try not to be led astray through visions of making unrealistic pots of money. Unless your offering makes sense to both you and your customer, you will unfortunately sit with a credibility gap. Remember the dot com meltdown – vast sums poured into Internet businesses but when you looked at what some ventures purported to do, their stories did not add up. Selling products with shipping costs higher than what you could buy at a street level outfit only made sense to investors desperate (or crazy) enough to find any way to get a piece of the dot com action. 

Producing ideas for profit is critical because businesses begin with an idea. But ultimately, a vital ingredient, if your idea is to fly, is your business model.

If you think your business model is a cut above the rest, why not enter the first international business model competition.

How to free your creativity to generate ideas

Warning: using your creativity is risky. © C Bradshaw 2011

Need to produce ideas to start a new venture, come up with a product or service or promote your new business? Do you want to release your latent potential? Is there a low-cost way to quicly learn how to produce ideas almost instantly?

A simple but effective technique for producing ideas has been around for some time and it is finding new applications in business whether you run a kitchen table outfit, small business, consulting practice, work for a corporate or in manufacturing.

Before you stop reading because you erroneously believe you are not creative or that this technique is for creative people like artists and writers, consider its new applications for business. Let me explain.

Silence your internal critic

The technique is freewriting and involves writing quickly without stopping for a set time (ten minutes or longer once you’ve got used to it) without regard to spelling, punctuation or grammar. Even writing gibberish or babble is OK. In fact, you don’t need to write complete sentences — just keep your pen or keyboard moving as fast as you can but without rushing. The process of freewriting helps you to prevent your internal critic getting in your way while you are creating and generating new ideas. Your internal critic can be useful afterwards when you need to evaluate, assess and judge.

Freewriting is private but it’s up to you to share what you’ve written. Private writing frees you up to write anything you want without constraining or censoring yourself for an audience even if it is only one person.

Standout practitioners

Some standout practitioners include Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way), Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) and Peter Elbow (Writing with Power). These breakthrough books lead the field. The Artist’s Way has broad application — it can trigger ideas for creative works but its freewriting and other tools can help to shape, refocus and transform your life. Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane (Discovering the Writer Within) promote freewriting to release creativity and spark fresh ideas.

Freewriting can be useful for any person, artist, writer, advertising specialist, scientist, business person, manufacturer or consultant.

Creativity can’t be commoditized

A recent addition to the freewriting field is Accidental Genius by Mark Levy, founder of the marketing strategy firm Levy Innovation. Levy covers using freewriting to explore ideas and concepts for writing projects (blog posts, articles and books) but also for a wide range of applications in business.

Freewriting can be used to generate ideas for marketing, promotion and sales to name just a few. What I found helpful were some of his applications like researching new products, investigating business opportunities and exploring your best ideas.

His suggestions for freewriting are helpful to generate new products and services, develop business plans, devise business models and ignite marketing programmes. Levy also shows how you can use freewriting to keep your focus on what you want to make of your life.

All this guidance aside, the real test of your freewriting progress is to come up with your own ways to use freewriting to create ideas and to solve problems or explore solutions. Your first freewriting forays may not generate breakthrough ideas but repeated attempts (at least three times a week) should yield pleasant and profitable surprises.

Open up your thinking

Levy’s methods are also useful for consultants and trainers who wish to help clients unlock their creativity and help them to solve problems or come up with new ideas. He advises to teach freewriting to a client, a colleague, a team, an audience. “Don’t, however, just teach it as an intriguing skill,” he says. “Teach it to them as a means to open up thinking about a specific problem.”

Freewriting is a valuable technique for coaxing those ephemeral thoughts and insights, teasing the unconscious to delight with epiphanies. It is one of hundreds of many creative techniques that can help you to draw valuable insights and ideas from your effervescent unconscious mind.

Knowing which technique to use in a given circumstance or to meet the particular needs and interests of an individual or team takes experience and understanding. Freewriting whether performed on your own or under the guidance of a creativity consultant or ideation expert enables both entrepreneurs and corporate employees to sharpen their ideas for starting new ventures, revitalizing their business and winning new customers.

 

Copyright 2011 Bell & Cray Business Research™. This material used with special permission from Bell & Cray Business Consulting™. Bell & Cray Business Consulting™ is a division of Bell & Cray™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

Copyright 2011 Bell & Cray Business Research™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

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Recognise these six mental blocks to innovation?

INNOVATION: Spinning rock relics into cash. Photo: © Chesney Bradshaw 2011

Being blocked in our ability to produce ideas and innovate can feel like being sucked into a narrow tunnel, a dark passage, a deep cave – where we can remain trapped for what seems like an eternity.

How can we snap out of our unfortunate trance? What are some of the psychological and emotional obstacles blocking our state of creativity, our flow of ideas?

Here are six mental blocks creators and innovators need to recognise and overcome their mesmerising spell:

1 Coveting the status quo

We don’t want to disturb the existing order, the way we have always done things. Trapped in the bliss of our comfort zones, the dull grey hue of existence becomes a pale but safe substitute for the risk of being energised and feeling alive.

2 Fear of not being good enough

Low levels of self-esteem become a self fulfilling prophecy. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” says Anaïs Nin. What will it take for us to believe that we are equipped for life’s challenges? Yet another degree, another course, another pile of books? We need to discipline the inner critic before and during our idea generation. Silencing it altogether is unwise as we need it later when we evaluate our ideas and prepare to introduce them to our customers and communities.

3 Analysis by paralysis

We become obsessed by the detail, believing that if we plan out things thoroughly and painstakingly we will have enough bases covered to succeed. But where’s the action? Analysis can be a violent intellectual act, the opposite of synthesising, creating something new. Isn’t the Ready, fire, aim approach more effective than Ready, aim, aim, aim, splutter?

4 Fear of change

Change can be filled with discomfort and uncertainty. Pain avoidance protects from harm. We miss the dynamic of embracing the new and experiencing personal growth. Mastering the art of handling the scary onslaught of change is not easy but what price do we pay for avoidance?

5 Ego needs (embarrassment)

We may not believe that we can make a difference; that our ideas, our thoughts, our presence possess value. What we cast out to the world will come back to smack us in the face. Who do we think we are? Our ideas will be ridiculed. You’ll only make a fool of yourself, we hear our family members say, threatened by our temerity to venture outside of the norm.

6 Secure identity

Holding safe our identity we stay trapped in untenable situations, positions and roles maintaining an image of ourselves that we may erroneously believe others respect us for. Being aware of how our identity stands in the way of seeing ourselves differently allows us an opportunity to redefine ourselves.

Remaining stuck because of any of these mental blocks can be a serious impediment to our growth and well-being — and our ability to create and innovate. It takes self-awareness to recognise the mental and emotional traps that hold us back from becoming what we yearn to be. Sometimes our lives require risk — putting ourselves on the line. As a creator in advertising, art, architecture, choreography, design, literature, music or any other human enterprise, we would do well to consider the words of Ray Bradbury, “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down”.

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What stokes your fire?

  

Shoal of fish
© Chesney Bradshaw 2011

What stokes your fire?

At Christmas day lunch in a seaside restaurant, a pink piece of paper tumbled out from a cracker:

“Why was the chicken at the North Pole?”

The answer: “It was lost.”

A chilly prospect for the chicken but perhaps a familiar sensation for those who lost their way in 2010’s economic blizzard.

At a time when predictions for the New Year overflow in newspapers and magazines as well as on blogs, FaceBook, Twitter and websites, it’s perhaps pertinent to reflect on people who seem to predict their own futures regardless of inner and outer circumstances.

Consider some entrepreneurs I came across shortly before the end of 2010:

? One has started an eatery in a side road with big plans for the future

? Another who deals in maritime collectables can’t wait to trade in the New Year

? Yet another is starting a micro brewery with an excellent tasting product

? One young entrepreneur is kick-starting an online health foods business for athletes

? A microcomputer retail owner is repositioning his business for increased growth

? A guitarist has just released his fourth CD and is growing his following

What do these entrepreneurs have in common? What stokes their fire?

They have all come up with their own ideas to produce business concepts that support their passion. These innovators possess a razor sharp understanding of their product and customer needs. Another thing, they tackle what they are doing with such enthusiasm that they don’t seem to have time to dwell on the economy. They are also hardly likely to be pouring over the list of dire predictions for 2011 or any year for that matter.

This is not to say that predictions are unimportant. They point to possible areas of change. Give warnings. Signpost opportunities.

These entrepreneurs are busy implementing their ideas in 2011. Each one has come out of a hobby or interest, a passion driving them to turn what they love doing into a way to support their lifestyle and incomes. How did they stumble on these ideas? How long did it take them to realise their dreams? What fire kept burning inside them to make a go of what they imagined and eventually realised?

Phil Cousineau in “Stoking the Creative fires: 9 ways to rekindle passion and imagination” challenges, “What will it take to stoke your fire?” He covers stages of the creative journey: inspiration, perspiration and realisation. “Unreal work,” he says, “burns you out, real work renews you.”

What will light your fire this year? What will keep stoking your fire? How long will your fire burn?

One of the best-kept secrets is to find your ideas, your innovation, in a state of relaxation. Forcing ideas in a mad scramble blocks your creative pathways. “An environment of playfulness and humour is highly conducive to creativity,” says Michael Michalko, a leading creativity expert and author of “Cracking Creativity: The secrets of creative genius”.

How do you find your real work? It almost always requires inner work, knowing who you are and what you want. Your search can include keeping a journal for thoughts and ideas, going back into your past when you felt passionate about something and exploring various sources of information such as television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books and blogs to spark ideas. You can also use ideas and techniques on this blog or the websites listed on the right hand column of this page. Innovators need not originate completely new ideas but can SCAMPER (substitute, combine, adapt, magnify, modify, put to other uses, eliminate, rearrange, reverse) existing products, services, concepts and ideas to create new products and services.

The entrepreneurial spirit, whether in the form of the independent businessperson or the innovator working with passion in a company, needs nurturing. It is the source for solutions to today’s challenges and points the way to new possibilities for our environment, living, working, playing.

Entrepreneurs and innovators in whatever field possess the fire to innovate whether searching to start something of their own from scratch or re-imagining and re-inventing what they do at work. Whether they run a family business, “kitchen table” business or a part of a corporation as a manager, entrepreneurs have a passion to produce ideas and turn them into innovative products and services that ultimately help people live better quality lives.

Hotwire your inner circuitry with creative fire in 2011 and forecast your own future.

Copyright 2011 Bell & Cray Business Research™. This material used with special permission from Bell & Cray Business Consulting™. Bell & Cray Business Consulting™ is a division of Bell & Cray™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

Copyright 2011 Bell & Cray Business Research™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

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A little known secret about a source of breakthrough innovations

When we think of breakthrough innovations, we may assume that they originate from developed countries such as the United States, Europe and Japan. Sure, these countries come up with innovative products and services all the time to reach mass consumer and global business markets. But the problem for innovations exported from these countries is that products and services are often high-value and high cost – a difficult proposition to penetrate markets in brutal recessionary times.

Where is the competitive edge in today’s innovations? What countries are leading the field in new products and services relevant for times when pockets and budgets are tight?

On a visit to India, it was amazing to learn how this country’s innovations are finding their way into world markets. The Economic Times reported now historically multinational companies designed products in developed markets and adapted them for the rest of the world. Now increasingly low-cost, high value products developed primarily for emerging markets are graduating to the developed world. Breakthrough innovation through Indian frugal engineering skills means that products such as the Nano could be launched as an upgraded version in developed markets.

What are some of the spectacular innovations being produced in India? Ford’s Figo and Toyota’s Etios are examples of India-designed low-cost cars. Nestle has a high-nutrient, low-cost variant of Maggi noodles developed for the rural poor in India and Pakistan soon to be exported to Australia and New Zealand. General Electric has made a cheaper, stripped down version of its ECG and ultrasound machines. Kentucky Friend Chicken (KFC) Krushers is a range of new beverages. McDonald’s Aloo Tikki Burger is another value-for-money product. HP Labs India launched SiteOnMobile which enables web access from low-end phones without GPRS connectivity. Indian business people have developed many other products including low-cost water purifiers that are now being exported to world markets.

The story of India’s innovation is one of a country determined to find solutions that are suitable for local conditions in quality, cost and value for money. It also demonstrates that innovation knows no borders, nationalities and culture. Ideas are to be found wherever people are who have a passion to improve, grow and develop.

In a world where challenges such as global warming, poverty, social breakdown, high unemployment, inferior government education and stratospherically high cost medical care are ever present, new ideas and innovation are required for consumers and business markets where cost and value-for-money is an increasing requirement. Sharp entrepreneurs can take advantage of the opportunities that these circumstances present.

What is the source of all this innovation? Multinational corporations are developing products and services in emerging markets adapted to local conditions. Local companies are also developing solutions suited to local circumstances and are beginning to export them.

There must be more to this innovation. What lies beneath the surface? What is driving this phenomenon? Education for one thing. India is producing thousands of qualified engineers, providing a rich source of technically skilled people who can apply their ingenuity to generating low-cost, high value products that provide convenience and superior quality and performance.

What lessons does such innovation hold for other countries, other communities and individuals who have been caught in corporate downsizing, factory and mine closures and family businesses that have gone belly up in the vicious worldwide recession? Wherever we are, in whatever country or community, we should be aware of the opportunities that our local innovations have for export markets.

Innovation requires experimentation, new ways of thinking and seeing, envisaging new possibilities, re-imagining products and services that have become too costly. Today’s breakthrough innovations require products and services that offer optimum utility and performance. As Michael Michalko in “Cracking Creativity” says, “Each time you look at a problem in a different way, you increase your probability of discovering the unique perspective or insight that will lead to the breakthrough idea.” India’s innovation is a call to action, an inspired story of people generating ideas, commercialising their innovations and taking them to the marketplace in a world hungry for innovative products and services that cost less but provide greater value.

Copyright 2010 Bell & Cray Business Research™. This excerpt has been used by special permission from Bell & Cray Business Consulting™. Bell & Cray Business Consulting™ is a division of Bell & Cray™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

Copyright 2010 Bell & Cray Business Research™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

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Unleasing innovation through leadership

Cup of coffee
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What happens when ineffective leaders kill innovation in organisations? Does innovation get tucked away in a R&D function and remain starved for resources? Are employees allowed to make mistakes, get second chances and challenge work processes and leaders or will they be expelled from the company like so much flotsam? What happened to the belief that those with ideas should be nurtured and valued … that everyone’s ideas should be permitted to sprout from everywhere in the company?

These are serious questions but Ronald (not his real name) who works of a large organisation had a lot on his mind. We were eating breakfast on an early summer morning, drinking too much coffee. Ronald was concerned by what he saw happening in companies. Ideas were being stifled, creativity scoffed at and people were being treated with a lack of respect.

“Why don’t you leave?” I asked. “You can’t hope to survive in such a toxic environment.”

The restaurant manager asked Ronald in a polite voice, “How can I be of service to you?” Ronald ordered more coffee.

“I’ve been there a long time,” Ronald said. “I saw the company once in a growth phase when managers were keen to grow the business. I’m hoping the entrepreneurial spirit will come back.”

Ronald was yearning for something that had walked out of this company long ago. It sounded like the people were beaten up and demoralised.

“You’re the business consultant,” Ronald said. “What do you make of this? Should I go or stay?”

“I’m not so sure you should stay,” I said. “But that’s up to you to decide. All I can do is throw a few thoughts at you. Perhaps they’ll help make up your mind.”

Ronald was describing what happens in organisations in the absence of leadership. Senior managers become obsessed with operations and discard fostering innovation and conceptualising the business for the future. Innovation is relegated to R&D and operational improvements. This malady results in employees feeling useless, unable to suggest better, faster and more cost effective ways of doing things wherever they work.

“It’s pretty scary the way managers work in these companies,” Ronald said. “One little mistake and you’re out. If they can’t force you out on their trumped up charges, they’ll wait until you make another mistake to nail you.”

“I’m going to read you a quote,” I told Ronald, taking out a 3 x 5 card. “It’s from Robert K. Greenleaf, the guy who wrote “Servant Leadership.”

“The only sound basis for trust is for people to have the solid experience of being served by their institutions in a way that builds a society that is more just and more loving, and with greater creative opportunities for all of its people.”

Ronald listened, sipped his coffee and fell into deep thought.

“Who’s this guy?” Ronald asked. “That sounds like the stuff of fairly tales. I’d be laughed at if I said something like that where I work.”

It took some time to explain who Robert K. Greenleaf was and his concept of servant leadership for which he had gained much respect and admiration.

“Managers in the companies you describe may be laughing all the way to the bank right now but their shareholders may not with no one looking out for the future of the business,” I said. “The way people are being treated is unpalatable but predictable.”

Ronald was surprised. He called for the restaurant manager for the bill so I had to get my point across quickly. I described to him the two paradigms of organisation, borrowing from Stephen Covey – the antiquated “control” culture of the 20th century and the “release” culture required for the 21st century information age with social media and extended networks. In the “control” culture, managers treat people as expenses and relationships are transactional. Businesses, headed by a “chief” and structured in a hierarchy, are autocratic institutions administered through control. When employees cannot challenge or question the leadership, the company takes on the characteristics and tendencies of a cult. Look how Enron spat out dissenters. No dialogue spells disaster. In the “release” culture, leaders serve by liberating the potential, passion and talents of their employees. Employees are connected through mutual trust and respect. Ideas, product ideation and innovation flourish throughout the whole system.

“That’s all I can get across now. I risk being rude and taking too much of your time if I go on.”

“Though what you describe is abstract and theoretical the two models are interesting. But I still don’t know how any of us can change things and get to the Shangri-La you describe.”

“There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to,” I said. “Freeing up the control starts at the top with fundamental changes. When you’ve got some free time we can talk some more about what changes need to be made. In the meantime, try to influence your immediate sphere.”

“And if that doesn’t work?” Ronald asked.

“You know the answer to that one,” I said.

The restaurant manager came back to the table with the bill and Ronald paid him. He thanked Ronald and said something that sounded strange, “Thank you for the honour of being able to serve you.”

As we left the restaurant, I couldn’t help thinking how much work lay ahead in some organisations. These were the ones that had lost their way with heavy political agendas, covering behinds as they polluted the environment without regard to external social costs, colluding and overcharging customers for years and recklessly risking entrusted funds. Enron and Lehman Brothers are extreme examples but such arrogance and disregard is found all over the world. Turning 180 degrees, the flip side presented an opportunity for leaders with strength and courage to offer an alternative vision for the future where innovation and employees would be able to thrive.

 

Copyright 2010 Bell & Cray Business Research™. This excerpt has been used by special permission from Bell & Cray Business Consulting™. Bell & Cray Business Consulting™ is a division of Bell & Cray™. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be duplicated or re-disseminated without permission.

 

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