Tag Archives: innovation

False Economy

Our biggest asset is Our people.’

So boasts many a company.  But how much do they really engage with that statement.   Is it just another trite cliche, there to impress those on the outside?

One of the best indicators for how much a company really thinks about its people and how much it values them is how much it actually invests in them, demonstrated clearly by size of the budget assigned to continue their development, even when times are tough.

I have friends in a number of large, ‘innovative’, ‘people-focussed’ organisations whose first axed budget was for training and development.  All too often I’m told, ‘Stuart, there is no training budget this year. It’s been cut in the current economic climate.’

To me that really says, ‘As a company we don’t really value our people.’

We talk much about investing in people, supporting our staff, being people-focussed when in fact we’re anything but!

The most valuable commodities when times are hard are creative and innovative ideas which can only come from our people, not our products.   Those creative ideas not only help a company survive and save money in the hard times, they are the gateway to future expansion and success.

As one business author wrote, ‘Those companies with a survival mentality will die.’

It is those companies that really invest in their people who will reap the rewards, survive and thrive.

Perhaps some of our companies would benefit more from a cut in management during hard times so that the money they save can be invested in those who can change fortunes.

And perhaps then they would actually believe that their biggest asset is their people.

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How Can We Build Self-Esteem & Confidence in Others?

Self-esteem is the foundation on which confidence can build.  People who feel valued and know their self-worth are then more able to try new things and be prepared to fail.  Unfortunately, failure has become a dirty word in business and we love to make scapegoats of those who have failed.  But in so doing we continue to hammer the nails in our own coffin, because unless we are prepared to try something new, to put ideas together that have never been put together before, to experiment with them and see if they work, creativity and innovation die.  If we stifle or kill self-esteem, we stifle and kill creativity and our success.  The three are intimately associated with one another.  The most successful and rapidly expanding businesses today are those where creativity thrives; Innocent Drinks and the Virgin franchise are just two examples. 

And where creativity is lost?  The businesses die. 

As pressures increase to be successful, we often exclude the very things that can save us.  One of those things is risk-taking, of which we are sorely afraid.  We continue to work harder at what we’ve always done in the hope that ‘this time it will work’.  Why should it if it hasn’t worked before?  If it has worked before but we’re struggling now, why use the tried and well-trodden path to the cemetery?  Risk-taking is the basis of creativity and the foundation for success.  But in order to take those risks we need the confidence, and to build confidence we need a foundation of self-esteem.

Simple ways to build self-esteem include basic rewards such as a verbal or written ‘Thank you’, recognition in front of peers, recognition of a team in a company publication, a small gift, anything that says ‘We appreciate your efforts.’

Perhaps we should re-learn the art of celebrating our failures.  They don’t have to be big announcements (there are undoubtedly people waiting in the wings to pour on scorn).  But by celebrating the failures with those who’ve tried it is possible to learn from the mistakes and to move forward.  Punishment achieves nothing apart from a misplaced sense of  dispensed justice.  We forget that the greatest discoveries affecting our lives today were the end of a line of repeated failures.  People like Thomas Edison went through hundreds, even thousands of prototypes before they came up with the end product.  Underlying that tenacity and perseverance was undoubtedly high levels of self-esteem and self-confidence which enabled them to face the failures, learn from them and move on.  These inventors would undoubtedly have been inspired and encouraged by others and needed to draw on that as onlookers criticised and ‘commented’ on their failures.  But it is their self-esteem that is likely to have held them on-course through the storms.

Sometimes we just need to let people have a go and discover for themselves.  This is the basis of my workshops.  I can show them plenty of what I can do, but in the end it only really works when each person has the opportunity to try for themselves.  Having discovered that they can or can’t do something they can move on, either to something new or build on what they’ve started.
Sometimes we need to revisit where they’ve been and help them change a wrong perception.  For example, they may have tried something once and decided that they can’t do it, when in fact they just need to try it again.

There are many ways we can help, but perhaps the biggest part is through our relationships with others.  As we develop and use these we have the opportunity to encourage, correct, draw alongside and help.  These things also take time, effort and patience, so it can be useful to weigh-up how much effort and time we can/are prepared to give.

Benefits from the results are potentially huge and long-lasting and the return on investment greater than we can ever perceive.

But we need to take that risk …

 

If you are interested to learn how we may be able to help you, please either visit our websites:

Waywood Creative:           http://www.waywoodcreative.com/

Waywood Training:            http://www.waywoodtraining.com/

Or contact me directly on

(     +44 (0)1509 553362

À       +44 (0)7814 628123

¿      stuart@waywoodenterprises.com

What are the Benefits of Building Self-Esteem & Self-Confidence?

In short, many!!

But let’s start by considering what we will avoid. 

When we are continually dragged down by low self-esteem and low self-confidence the impact is much wider than our work; it affects our whole life!

Biologically, our bodies set-up defence mechanisms against infection to keep us healthy, but the prolonged stress caused by poor self-image counteracts those mechanisms and renders us more susceptible to infection.

In addition, prolonged secretion of hormones and other natural chemicals which usually help us maintain good health, become imbalanced all over the body.

  • We suffer skin rashes and conditions such as eczema
  • Our breathing suffers and we can precipitate asthma
  • The lining which protects our stomach from the acid it contains erodes and eventually the acid digests our stomach tissues leading to ulcers
  • Other digestive disorders
  • Heart conditions
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • … etc.

The emotional drain can

  • Lead to bouts of low mood
  • Precipitate full-blown depressive illness

The severe lack of confidence affects everything we do … 

  • We become less inclined to try anything new (or even continue doing what we are doing)
  • We hide ourselves away as a defence mechanism, trying to avoid the possibility of anything else that may reinforce the low self-image and pain we feel
  • We become less inclined to go out, either for exercise or to be sociable.

So the detrimental effects can be catastrophic on a personal and professional level.

Confident people with a good level of self-esteem are less prone to the above list of horrors (although as with all things, over-confidence and inflated levels of self-importance can also be detrimental to our own health and the health of others). 

When we are confident, we are more likely to

  • Think clearly
  • Contribute ideas to discussions and meetings
  • Be able to speak candidly about serious issues affecting us or our workplace
  • Help each other
  • Be more creative and innovative.

Creativity and innovation are clearly more complex entities than simply being a function of our self-confidence or self-esteem.  They involve different patterns of thinking and assembly of ideas, but they are much more likely to occur where we can interact with others, openly, candidly, confidently.

In my next post I’ll be looking at a few ways in which we can start to build self-esteem in others and how that affects our living and working environments.

How can we affect self-esteem & self-confidence in others?

It is always worth considering what impact we can and do have on the self-esteem and self-confidence of other.  If these qualities in us are affected by external input from our parents, peers etc (i.e., others) then we too can have significant impact on the self-esteem and self-confidence in others.

Let’s consider as an example, the boss who wants to add some stretch to the expectations of his staff in order that they can develop and grow in their roles.  How can he help them to grow and develop and achieve these goals?  I would argue that one way is to reinforce their self-esteem and develop their self-confidence.  These promote not only independent thinking and working, but also the security to approach others for assistance if and when needed.  But what happens if this boss

  • Sets targets, and then continually reviews them and re-sets them as they are met? 
  • Sets targets that are simply not achievable? 
  • Introduces so much stretch in the objectives that they push the individual beyond their elastic limit? 
  • Continually focuses on targets that are not being met and ignores those that have been achieved or exceeded? 
  • Provides criticism and objective advice without praise and reward?

These scenarios are all too common in business today; many through pressures to perform in difficult or changing economic climates; many through personal drive or feelings of the need to achieve or survive; many through ignorance.  Whatever the reason, the end result is the same; underachievement, low morale, suspicion and loss of best staff (either voluntarily or through ill-health).

When the pinch comes the focus can be turned so strongly onto the objective that we neglect the means of achieving that objective, our staff.  Survey after survey shows that the best results, greatest growth and greatest stability arise where people feel valued, rewarded and are given the freedom to try, in other words, where people have a feeling of worth (self-esteem) and the confidence to make a significant and recognised contribution (self-confidence).  It’s also interesting that in many cases, reward constitutes little more than acknowledgement and being thanked.  It does not necessarily have to be a salary increase or monetary award.

The problem is that in many cases, praise, thanks and acknowledgement have been consigned to the annals of history.  The positive side to this is that where there is a cultural change from a praise vacuum to one of acknowledgement, the change in atmosphere, attitude and motivation can be remarkably rapid and greater than could be expected.

So, if encouraging others costs nothing, apart from a bit of pride, self-discipline and effort, but reaps such great rewards, what are the barriers to us starting, now?

  • Pride?
  • Time?
  • Image?
  • Effort?
  • Expectations?
  • Office structure?
  • … other reasons?

If survival, growth and development are priorities in our businesses then none of these barriers is too great to overcome.  Most are personal anyway.  And if it is a case of reorganisation or redundancy, then there can be little argument against the case.

The benefits of building self-esteem and self-confidence in others and ourselves are that we are laying the foundations for greater things; creativity and innovation.

More of that next time …

Innovation: A Team Sport

Innovation and creativity are not entities and they do not happen spontaneously.

They are the fruits of people, people interacting and working together, complete with all of the friction and personality clashes.  Innovation is analogous to a musical writing partnership or team sports.  If all roles are performing well, we get a positive force for innovation.  And just with sports teams, it is not essential to have total excellence in every area.  Some of the most effective and innovative teams have true excellence in one or two areas combined with strength in many others.  There may be stars in our team, but the team is the powerhouse.

Perspiration, dedication and hard work are also at the centre of creativity and innovation, honing skills practiced and developed over long periods of time, until they really work.  Here are Some basic principles for success:

  1. Stretch for Strength:  Flexibility is more important than strength, size or power.  Many ‘giants’ of the business world have disappeared as smaller, more nimble companies stole the market through exercising their flexibility and operating according to new business models.
  2. Go for distance:  Innovation is less about a programme and more about a way of life; a culture.  It is a culture that should be at the centre of every part of an organisation and one which continues to evolve and develop with time, and over time.  It is about longevity rather than fad.
  3. Never give in:  Wherever there is innovation there are obstacles and these must be overcome.  Personalities within our teams will be able to see ways around whatever obstacle is in the way or objection raised.  At these times close collaboration and problem sharing are essental for going the distance.
  4. Fight the mental battles:  One of the biggest obstacles or hurdle to our progress looms in the battle of the mind; our psyche.  To quote Tom Kelley, ‘Innovators have the uncommon sense to pursue ideas long after others give up.’
  5. Celebrate the coach:  Behind every great sports team there is a geat coach.  Behind every great project team there is a great coach.  They may not be in the limelight, but they labour tirelessly in the background making sure everything and everyone stays together.  The right coach brings out the best and we notice the difference

The most successful teams comprise a rich mix of different types of people with different personalities or personas, different talents and abilities, different temperaments.  The correct mix will produce sufficient innovative friction to push forward the team and push forward the innovative process.

When innovation is experienced, it is a mighty force to inspire further innovation.  Perhaps the most important step is to make a start, no matter how small, get the innovation engine turning over, see the benefits and build on them.  And these benefits will be pretty obvious when they occur, hopefully enough to overcome politics and convert even the most cynical as they see a turn-around in their group, department, business unit or  company.

And innovation doesn’t just turn companies around, it becomes a way of life.

My Zimbio
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Brainstorming: Dead or Alive?

Brainstorming seems to have been transient in many organisations, though in some cases the title has been changed but the process is essentially the same.

Probably ten years ago, Brainstorming was at its zenith, a hip tool that seemed to impact any and every scenario in businesses; management meetings, project teams, ideas committees.  All embraced it actively … and then as quickly as it arrived on the scene, it departed from many settings …  which is very sad.

For many, a brainstorm was little more than an excuse for firing out ideas, discussing them and then forgetting them.  The sessions were ill-structured, poorly manged and produced little lasting fruit.  And yet, over a decade later, innovation experts still sing the praises of this tool.

So, for those who have perhaps missed out on the power and value of brainstorming, here is a short(ish) summary of the method and its benefits.

Brainstorming is a very important technique, not only because it generates ideas but because it lays the foundations for a creative and innovative culture.  Bob Sutton, a Stanford University professor suggests that Brainstorming is especially beneficial for a number of reasons:

  • Organisational Memory – Many valuable and experienced members of our organisations are too busy to be involved on project teams.  BUT they can spare an hour for a brainstorming session. The brainstorm thus allows us access to organisational expertise and knowledge that would otherwise be inaccessible.  During the session, possible solutions from past, present or future experiences may be explored, thereby drawing on the organisation’s memory and intelligence.
  • Reinforcing an attitude of wisdom – The attitude of wisdom is the balance between confidence in what we know and a willingness to listen to ideas that challenge us and our worldview.  Brainstorming matches our wits and creativity with those of others, which can be humbling, but also makes us wiser.
  • Increases visibility of team members – When run properly, the free-spirited atmosphere of brainstorming sessions allows people who may not normally be ‘visible’ to shine and to make their contribution, and their mark.  They are able to gain attention and status which may have otherwise passed them by.

However, a brainstorming session can only be as effective as those contributing, and in a large part, to those responsible for leading the group.  Here are some simple rules for making the sessions effective:

  • Target focus – Start with a question that really states the problem in an open-ended but not too braod manner.  An example of this type of question would be, “How can we gain deeper insights into our first-time customers?”
  • Stick to the rules – Go for maximum quantity rather than quality, encourage wild ideas, be visual, defer judgement until later, allow only one contribution at a time.  Make sure everyone knows these rules and make them visible to all (e.g., printed in large letters on posters, white boards etc which are positioned in clear view around the room); it is important.  By adhering to these rules we are able to keep the meeting and ideas focussed and empower members of the team to contribute.
  • Number all ideas – By keeping a tally of how many ideas we have generated we are able to motivate and spur on the team to even more.  If we are aiming for 100 ideas (a good result for one hour’s work) and we have reached 94, it is unlikely that any team will settle for less than the target.
  • Add and switch –  At some stage during the process ideas will dry up or slow down.  Rather than dwelling on this, it is a good idea to return to some of the earlier ideas and build on them for a while.  A good question to ask here is something like, “How might we apply these?”  Once we have answered a few of these, we can return to adding to the list, where it is quite common for ideas to freely flow again.
  • Use space – Use the whole room; all vertical and horizontal spaces.  Use Post-Its and low-tech mediums that everyone can share and use.  Use a room that allows this to happen (rather than one which says, “Do not stick tape on the paintwork“).
  • Pre-warm the brain – Set attendees a bit of ‘homework’ by asking them to think about the problem the night before and then sleep on it.  A pre-warmed brain is a good tool for increasing output during the brainstorming session.
  • Include the physical – Verbal ideas are good, but some projects lend themselves to visual and physical ideas, such as the creation of prototypes, construction of crude models, drawing diagrams or pictures etc.  Make a good supply of ‘creative staples’ (plastic bottles, boxes, paper, tape, glue etc) available and visible.

So there we have it.  A few hints and ideas to breathe new life into our next brainstorming session.

I have to acknowledge and thank Tom Kelley for his book, The Ten Faces of Innovation [Profile Books, ISBN 978-1-86197-806-6] for help on this subject.

Until next time, happy storming of the brain!

 

My Zimbio
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Innovation: Courage to Create Success

Sometimes the first ingredient we need for innovation is courage; courage to go with our convictions, even in the face of opposition.

3M is a global company with a reputation for creativity and innovation, but anyone who has worked in almost any ‘creative and innovative organisation’ will tell you that reputation and actual practice are often poles apart.  Sure, they like to take the credit for their public successes but what they don’t publicise so freely is just how much perseverance, tenacity and sheer dogged single-mindedness the individual champions of the case have to be in order to make their individual success a company success.

I was reminded recently of the account of Richard Drew, an iconic figure within 3M culture and the person responsible for not one, but two truly innovative products that put 3M well and truly on the map, both as an organisation and later as an innovative company.

Drew joined 3M with a less than glowing background of being a college dropout who played banjo in dance bands at night whilst studying engineering through a correspondence course.  He had an entry level job as a lab technician.  One of Drew’s tasks was to take batches of 3M’s Wetodry sandpaper to a nearby St Paul automotive body shop.  At the time (1921) two tone colours were all the rage for cars, and on one of Drew’s visits a painter was cursing and swearing because he had just ruined a paint job.  There was at that time no way of ensuring a good line between the colours except through the use of glues and paper etc.

Drew saw the problem and decided to come up with a solution.

Now it would be great to say that he was supported by the company for his efforts, but he wasn’t.  3M was a sandpaper manufacturer not a tape manufacturer so Drew had to ‘go underground’ to do his work, experimenting with all sorts of oils and resins to produce a superior adhesive.  He was told to stop on at least one occasion and agreed until the attraction of his own little project became too great and he started again.  When he had come up with a good prototype, he needed to manufacture the finished article for which he needed a specific piece of machinery.  He was refused.  So he used his initiative and used a series of $99 sign-offs (he was allowed to authorise payments up to $100) which slipped ‘under the company radar’ to buy the machine.

In 1925, Richard Drew successfully produced the world’s first masking tape with a pressure sensitive adhesive backing … and the rest, as they say, is history.  Well it would be if Drew hadn’t come up a few years later with another invention of the first see through adhesive packaging tape, Scotch Tape, again after  persevering against the odds.

Of course today, the name of Richard Drew is synonymous with the innovative spirit of the company, but at the time he was making it big for the company through his determination and conviction to succeed, it was a battle; a battle which involved stepping around the rules, lying low, persevering against the odds.

Innovation is often a rough path which is only seen and appreciated by the end-results of products or processes, not during the actual process of arriving (except by those who are driving it).

So the next time we are looking for innovation in our business, we need to remember that it is often a long and winding road, and a road that will require a lot of sweat and toil along the way, not only with the project at hand but with all the devil’s advocates and ‘jobworths’ who tell us that it won’t work.  This is why we need to lok at adopting a creative and innovative culture which understands the processes, pitfalls and obstacles and which helps, not hinders the process which is the lifeblood of company survival and expansion.

 
My Zimbio

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