Years ago we began to see the words “creativity” and “innovation” appearing throughout business research, articles, and books. We have witnessed how fast that even a huge corporation can go out of business without creative strategic planning. Look at Blockbuster. Consider Tower Records. Think about the future fate of bookstores as more and more people are into downloading their books. On-line education is becoming ever more popular which may soon even impact our K-12 schools. Cell phones, computers, and cars are continuously being improved upon. The list goes on and on. Companies must not only HAVE great ideas these days, but must be faster than everyone else in implementing the ideas. Yet all too many businesses are struggling to get on this creative and innovative bandwagon.
Our economic problems have made creativity and innovation all the more challenging. Businesses are cutting back everywhere and employees are over-worked. Perks have been taken away. Incentives have been put on hold. There is little or no time for training or conferences or extra time off.
The problem here is that we are now too busy to think. A hectic environment, with “to do” lists several pages long is counterproductive to creativity and innovation. Stress also zaps creative energy. Creativity doesn’t just happen. It requires time, freedom, a break from routine, and a continuous exchanging of ideas.
I recently attended a conference for which I had to travel away from my office for a week. As usual, I came back from the conference filled with great ideas. I actually had time to think while I was away. Everyone I talked to at this conference felt the same way; that is, they always leave conferences or training programs ready to implement something new. But then the inevitable begins to happen. No time to think. There is so much work to be done that those new ideas begin to take a back burner, and, if you aren’t careful, will be forgotten. Keeping those new ideas moving forward takes concerted but worthwhile effort.
What’s the answer here? Simple. Setting aside time for creative thought should be viewed as a method to improve business rather than as a couple of hours wherein work is not being done. Brainstorming sessions are NOT a waste of time. I like to take every idea that is tossed out and, rather than thinking why it can’t be done, think through how it COULD be done. Set aside negative thinking and let imaginations prevail. Put together cross-functional teams, from all levels of the organization, and have them come up with a solution to a problem and a workable implementation plan. Monitor and encourage progress. Set up systems that foster the exchange of ideas.
You might think that you and the rest of your team just don’t have the luxury of extra time to be creative. But think again. It may actually be that you don’t have the luxury of NOT taking time to think. The economy will eventually begin to bounce back. If your business is going to be one that participates in the expansion, now might be a good time to allow creativity and innovation to become a normal part of your organizational culture. Put together an innovation team and let the ideas flow.