Innovation (and Disruptive Innovation)
We live in a time where we need to do more to become better. By this, I do not mean working ever harder for smaller rewards or, brrr, without rewards. What I mean by that is that we have to continue to get smarter about what we do now and for the long term.
We have to stop thinking myopically and think with a broader mindset, a national or even global mindset to improve any and all efforts that we strive to do.
In this case, I am looking at the business landscape but it can also be applicable for local infrastructure improvements or even humanitarian efforts.
We have to change the mindset of everyone we meet, in everything we do – to make change a real possibility so we (as a people, not just the well to do or the better educated) can make progress and move forward.
Businesses (since they are considered people) have to change mindsets and successfully engage with, interact with and employ people that do not look or sound like them (you know what I mean) – ‘others.’ More businesses have to learn that with these ‘others’ there is great potential to be gained with true success stories waiting to happen.
It all depends on strategy, creativity and innovation.
In striving to go further and doing better, we (individuals and businesses) have to come up with strategies that help more than just the few. We have to have strategies as individuals and businesses that move each; the individual(s) and/or company, the communities where they are located in and the nation – forward.
When I noted that we have to stop being myopic in our thinking, I mean that we need to think of the efforts that can be undertaken in a micro and macro manner.
— The micro thinking has to be there for the here and now, the microcosm of what is around us
— The macro, or if it is clearer, the holistic thinking has be in place for tomorrow, the month following and the years to come. This macro thinking is meant to take much more into account than what many are accustomed to thinking about. The thinking should stretch the minds of everyone involved, even if they are not comfortable with it – it is like the band aid example, rip it off and move forward
Too many people are content with staying comfortably isolated in their own completely filtered universe. We have to move more people out of that comfort zone, stretching their mental horizons to engage with more people who are different from them and to think about more than just themselves.
Because of this myopic thinking, businesses and individuals do not get better, no matter what they say. They pay lip service and return to their fall back, an isolated and filtered world – rather than actually thinking about doing better and then doing something about it.
Okay then, once you manage to get some kind of strategy going for you (and your company), one that will help you grow, you need to start thinking about being creative in doing the various things you do.
Here is a great set of definitions for Creativity :
- A “mental activity performed in situations where there is no prior correct solution or answer” (Encyclopedia of Creativity, vol. 2, “Teaching Creativity”)
- A “process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas”
- The “generation of novel, useful ideas”
Personally, I like these definitions.
The art of creativity is even better when it stems directly from your areas of work and/or passion. You should enjoy doing whatever it is you are doing. You will most definitely want to come up with numerous ways of doing things better than originally envisioned. You want to come up with ideas that might come across as novel but are actually more efficient (and maybe fun) in getting some task/effort accomplished. It could be a manner of work that co-workers and other employees (and even senior executives) will “want” to undertake and be part of.
Letting creativity flow in the organization will allow sparks to occur throughout all employees, causing more thinking and even more creativity. If firms stifle (or permit leadership to stifle) employee creativity and participation in getting new ideas into the corporate pipeline, it will ultimately lead to dull, dreary, listless and un-engaged employees as a rule, rather than as the exception.
But watching the light bulb (or LED bulb) pop up throughout various teams, from the least educated to the best educated – it is nothing short of exhilarating. These LED moments can yield fantastic dividends, tangible (increased revenue streams) and intangible (better employee morale and that longevity). So keep an eye open for them and let them happen, as part of your strategy…
Innovation (and Disruptive Innovation)
And when speaking of creativity, you have to also keep your ears perked up for the signs and sounds of innovation.
Innovation defined (as one of numerous definitions):
- Mental characteristic that allows a person to think outside of the box, which results in innovative or different approaches to a particular task
Nowadays, more and more firms, and individuals, are looking at ways they can be innovative, not just creative. If they can come up with a “newer” approach to doing things, well, their boat will have landed. Mind you, this is only incremental or evolutionary improvements/growth.
But then again, many do not want to just settle for innovation, they want “disruptive innovation.” Disruptive innovation defined (by Clayton Christensen Harvard Business School professor in 1997):
- a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors
Disruptive innovations truly are the magic lanterns of our time in moving forward because this aspect of innovations can result in revolutionary growth. With disruptive innovation, we can gain (for example) newer:
- Computer software and hardware designs (i.e. HP’s “The Machine,” which is supposed to turn the computing industry on its head) or
- Computer security software that can more readily detect and destroy malicious software (malware) before it can do harm or
- Financial software to detect embezzling and fraud in insurance, banking and hospital systems or
- Desalination designs and plants that convert salt water to cleaner drinking water at a significantly reduced cost – less power in the removal of the salt, giving states and countries access to water in these drought filled days or
- Movement away from fossil fuel, whether it is drilling in the oceans (with the by-product of killing wet lands and coastal retreats due to spills) or fracking (sucking up mega-tons of useful water with the other result of earthquakes, still not 100% proven yet but…) or
- Very slick methods to manufacture very long lasting batteries for all of our computing devices, phones and vehicles (from cars, to motorcycles, to trucks and even some planes) or
Now, we really do want disruptive innovations but we have to be willing to put up with the results.
Here is where you put your micro- and macro-strategy into play. Disruptive innovations can and will put people out of jobs, so we have to start planning (and continue planning) for the future to transition all people, from the low end of the job spectrum, even up to the higher end of the job spectrum, to better and meaningful jobs. If we do gain more disruptive innovations, which we undoubtedly will, no one will be immune from some forms of that growth.
In making your strategy to become more creative and more innovative in becoming a successful corporation, you have to take into account each employee of the organization.
Each person in an organization (from mail room clerks, receptionists to floor managers and beyond) has varying levels of cognitive diversity to be who they are. Cognitive diversity is the cumulative expanse of their past and current life. Cognitive diversity springs from one’s background, where they grew up, schools – what types and how many, work places, social environs, where their innate talents lie, their beliefs, etc..
Nevertheless, each person likely has a vast pool of knowledge to contribute to the firm and many of them just do not know it. Many times, most likely, the firm employing these under-tapped individuals are not aware of that vastly untapped pool of golden nuggets and uncut diamonds in their midst.
Cognitive diversity can yield a gold mine of talent and knowledge, if you are willing to tap those veins for success.
Strategy is not always about the investors, everyone should know this by now. It is about doing the right thing by and for your employees, your customers and your management teams.
Don’t get me wrong, earning a profit is what everyone one wishes to do, that will never change but some go about profits in an egregious manner that hinders on illegality to criminal, all for the sake of hiding the flow of revenue.
If you have the right strategy for your:
- Employees, you should see significantly improved longevity (minimal attrition rates), customer relationships, productivity and more importantly, retention of corporate empirical knowledge – even during the tough times
- Customers, in trying to be nimble and customer service oriented as possible, you will gain customer loyalty, even during those time periods when you have to possibly raise prices, short- or long-term
- Management teams, you gain loyalty, staff that is willing to mentor and nurture their team / division members with longevity, even during tough periods where your company ‘may’ get beaten by the competition and of course,
- Investors – you will definitely see the growth in your investor community with more willing to follow suit and invest in you and/or your firm
In today’s climate, we (individuals and businesses) have to become even more creative and innovative to do better – to be better – to make all environments (not talking about geography here) enjoyable and some place where one wants to come to work.
If all you are concerned about is pure profit at whatever cost, your employees’ and management leaders will cause you tremendous churn, which in turn creates large, large hits to the bottom line and tumultuous pain. Rather than gaining revenue profits, you will instead be spending it for corporate expenses in searching, hiring and training – over and over and over and…..
 Defining Creativity, Iowa State University, accessed July 5, 2015, http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching-resources/classroom-practice/teaching-techniques-strategies/creativity/defining-creativity/