Look Outside Your Field

Look Outside Your Field

Featured, Improvement, Innovation

industryThere is an old quote that has been attributed to numerous sources, “Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal.” When it comes to innovating, one of the best ways to develop innovations is to steal from other industries.

What is standard, and even taken for granted, in one industry, can be brand new to another. Adapting processes from different industries can spur new ideas and improved productivity. It also brings another advantage. People in a given industry tend to think alike. Part of this is due to the type of person your industry attracts, part of it is training. Bringing in ideas from a different industry brings in a different point of view and enhances the diversity of ideas you are working with. Don’t limit yourself to similar industries. A service business can get great ideas from manufacturing. Non-profits can get ideas from retailers. The ideas can come from anywhere.

Once you find new ideas in different industries, see how it can fit into what you do. It may not be easy to adapt all ideas so don’t feel obliged to bring the idea over as is. Just take the parts that work for you. Taking two ideas and putting them together in a way they haven’t been done before is the core of innovation. Look far and wide for those ideas and bring them home.

Scarcity Leads To Innovation

Scarcity Leads To Innovation

Featured, Innovation

constraintNecessity is the mother of invention. When times or resources are tight, people usually figure out how to make due: they create work-arounds, devise new ways of operating, and make better use of limited assets.

If you’re looking for a creative solution or an innovative new product, remember that creative problem-solving is the inevitable result of working with constraints. Try deliberately imposing scarcity on a process. Limit time, money, options, or other resources.

A great example is the work done by NASA during the flight of Apollo 13. They needed to build a CO2 scrubber (a filter that removes carbon dioxide from the air) but were limited by the fact that they could only work with what the astronauts had on the ship. They also had to devise a new process to power up all of the ship’s systems, without going over power constraints.

Set up a series of requirements and limitations and get creative. Innovation is a strategic advantage and you can coax it along using this method.

To see how a Modern Observer Group coach/consultant can help you innovate and overcome constraints, contact us.

Diversity Is Not The Point

Diversity Is Not The Point

Attitude and Mindset, Featured, Innovation

Diversity is a popular topic. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of articles talking about how important it is to have diversity in your organization. Most if not all of them miss the point. The bulk of the conversation has been about the lack of racial or gender diversity in the C-suite or in the tech industry. They talk about the need to provide opportunity to all groups. They fail to talk about why this is important to your business.

The point of diversity is not to be diverse. The point is to have a wider range of ideas and skills. A diverse team brings in different viewpoints. The combination of those viewpoints is where innovation comes from. People of different backgrounds come with different experiences. The total of those experiences are far more than the sum of their parts. You don’t simply want a diverse group, you want that group to share their backgrounds, experiences, and ideas openly. Combining all of that gives the diverse team a leg up on the non-diverse team.

Diversity for diversity’s sake defeats the purpose. You still want the best of the best of any group. The point is the benefits that diversity brings, not diversity itself.

To see how a Modern Observer Group coach can help you share ideas, contact us here.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Challenging the Status Quo

3 Mistakes to Avoid When You’re Challenging the Status Quo

Featured, Improvement, Innovation

changeYou have a great idea that will improve operations, but it goes against the way things are done. Now the challenge is to break through the bureaucracy to get your idea implemented. When you’re taking the role of rebel at work, Harvard Business Review recommends that you look out for these pitfalls:

  • Going solo. It’s tempting to think you can do it all on your own. But you can’t. Temper your ego and collaborate with others to advance your idea. Bringing in fresh perspectives will only help.
  • Flunking the pitch. When you’re ready to share the idea, keep your pitch short — no more than 15 minutes — and leave lots of time for discussion and questions. Engagement is the first step to buy-in.
  • Giving up too soon. Set small goals and appreciate the small wins along the way. When you hit a setback, reflect on your positive progress to help you stay the course.
Draw The Map

Draw The Map

Featured, Improvement, Innovation

mapThe easiest way to get somewhere is to follow a map. By doing this you’re following a tried and true path, one which has been traveled before and has been proven to get you to your destination. It minimizes the risk. It also minimizes the chance of a new discovery. It eliminates the possibility for innovation.

To become a market leader you need to be the first, be the best, or be the cheapest. Following what has been done before will not get you to any of these results. You need to be the one drawing the map, not following it. Yes, if you’re the one who draws the map the risks are greater. So are the rewards.

To draw your map:

  • Look at what’s been done.
  • See what can be done differently.
  • Explore the different path.
  • Map the results

Drawing your own map yields unexpected results. You may not end up where you expected, but you have the opportunity to find a better way.

Build a Better Innovation Team

Build a Better Innovation Team

Featured, Innovation

InnovationNo matter how great your idea, your innovation effort will fall apart if the wrong team executes it. Here are three steps for hiring a team that will help you achieve breakthroughs:

  • Focus on skills. Start by asking “What skills do we need?” not “Who do we know?” or “Who is available?”
  • Tailor job descriptions. Don’t be hindered by your company’s hiring practices. Create custom titles and descriptions for the task at hand.
  • Rethink hierarchy. Put the most important people at the top of the pecking order, regardless of their title or tenure. For example, if you’re taking your business digital, put your IT specialists at the top.
3 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation

3 Ways to Create a Culture of Innovation

Featured, Innovation

InnovationIf you want your employees to be more creative in their day-to-day work, you can’t rely on Ping-Pong tables, bean bag chairs, or one-off events like hackathons. To encourage more innovation, Harvard Business Review suggests that you foster a sense of challenge:

  • Give your employees projects that are demanding, while also making sure the tasks are a good match for their skills and resources.
  • Don’t just give a new project to whoever has free time or could finish it most easily. Before you delegate, ask yourself, “Who would feel challenged by this project and has the capacity to rise to the challenge?”
  • Aim for 70% success. If you expect everyone to nail a task with 100% success, they are unlikely to take risks, which is an innovation killer. Letting them know that 70% success is OK will ensure they don’t play it too safe.
Manufacturing Is Dead, Long Live Manufacturing

Manufacturing Is Dead, Long Live Manufacturing

Attitude and Mindset, Featured, Improvement, Innovation, Personal Growth

codeThere has been quite a bit of talk lately about the fate of manufacturing and how to bring it back. The problem is that its the wrong question. Manufacturing can’t come back because it didn’t leave. It changed. Of course manufacturing isn’t the only thing that has changed. Business in general has changed and morphed. Where most manufacturing was once done by hand and people tightened screws manually, now those screws are tightened by robots and fewer manufacturing jobs are available.

Or are there?

Jobs in manufacturing have changed. Where a worker is not needed to assemble every piece, workers are needed to program the machines that do that work. People are needed to maintain and fix those robots.  Jobs haven’t vanished they have changed. To stay on top of the changes you need to adapt. Learn to code. Coding is quickly becoming the new blue collar work.

Manufacturing isn’t the only place this change is being felt. Minimum wage jobs in fast food restaurant are being replaced by tablets. Same situation. These tablets still need to be programmed, maintained, and repaired.

Skip ahead to when this transition is complete. The robots and tablets cost less in the long term and produce more. As supply goes up prices go down. The number of jobs will be compatible but the content of those jobs will be vastly different. This is why personal development is so important. Keep learning new skills so you can adapt to the changing workplace. Don’t lock yourself in to when things were “better.” To quote Billy Joel, “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow’s not as bad as it seems.”

To Have More “Aha” Moments, Find Solitude

To Have More “Aha” Moments, Find Solitude

Featured, Innovation

InnovationHave you ever had a brilliant idea while taking a shower, or knitting, or working out? “Aha” moments tend to pop up when our minds are quiet and our consciousness is at rest. You can nurture these moments by creating an environment of silence and solitude. 

  • No matter how busy you are, do your best to take breaks between meetings and find some alone time.
  • Go to an empty conference room or, even better, leave the office and take a walk outside. 
  • Once you’ve reached a quiet spot, ignore what’s going on around you and focus on your inner thoughts.
  • Put your phone on airplane mode to completely disconnect for a block of time. 

This will allow your mind to truly wander, so your brain won’t miss the next lightbulb moment when it happens.

Serve Your New Ideas Raw

Serve Your New Ideas Raw

Featured, Innovation

InnovationIf you struggle to find new ideas in your organization, don’t assume there aren’t any. Instead, look at the ideas’ processes before they’re presented. Are they batted around, revised, screened, and debated before anyone with authority sees them? Instead of thoroughly vetting ideas before they reach senior management, find ways to expose executives to ideas when they’re raw. Skip the PowerPoint presentation—it only creates high expectations for a slick, refined idea. Remove the well-intentioned gatekeepers from the process. Hold an idea science fair where people present ideas in their earliest stages on poster board to a room of mingling executives who can stop to discuss ideas that catch their attention.