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Business Creativity: Key Creativity Lessons from Dr. Alan Robinson

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When I was younger, I had four full-time jobs before I started my first business.

Looking back, in none of these jobs did my managers ask for my ideas or suggestions. Nope - my business creativity and ideas simply didn't matter. Even though I had a lot of them. And many were ideas that could have really helped those companies.

So what did I do?

I left. I left those jobs until I found one where all of my ideas would receive the proper attention - running my own company.

But now that I'm running my company, I can't make the same mistake that my past employers made. That is, I must challenge my employees and encourage their ideas and suggestions.

Why? Well for numerous critical reasons according to award-winning author and professor Dr. Alan Robinson who I recently interviewed.

Specifically, according to Dr. Robinson's vast research, 85% of new ideas at companies come from front-line employees. Yes, the employees that are interfacing with customers and vendors, and employees that are manufacturing your products or cleaning your facilities come up with the vast majority of your best ideas.

Which is very interesting and dispels the myth that most great ideas are generated by CEOs and top managers. This makes sense though. Entrepreneurs and founders come up with ideas to form companies. But then they must eventually transform into managers of their organizations. In doing so, they move farther away from the front-line operations, making it harder for them to innovate themselves.

Which is why great entrepreneurs make innovation and business creativity a key part of their organizations.

According to Dr. Robinson, the first key to effectively integrating business creativity, idea generation, and innovation into organizations is "alignment." Alignment simply means that everyone in the organization knows the goals of the organization, and what goals new ideas should aim to solve. In an example of poor alignment, he mentioned the angry CEO who found a note in the suggestion box to "offer different flavors of peanut butter in the cafeteria." Clearly, this CEO, and not the employee, is at fault for not aligning his organization around its key objectives.

The second key to effective idea generation is to establish systems or processes. These systems do not have to be formal or costly. For example, giving employees 30 minutes/week to discuss new ideas is enough for them to 1) know that they should always be thinking of new ideas, 2) that their ideas are valued, and 3) that they have a formal opportunity to discuss their ideas.

Implementing idea generation programs not only results in great new ideas that allow companies to outperform competitors. But they result in dramatically higher employee satisfaction and morale.

In fact, one of the top reasons employees give for quitting a job is that management didn't take their ideas seriously. When employees are asked to submit ideas, given time and/or incentives to submit ideas, and see their ideas implemented, they become much more committed to their organizations and perform better.

So, as you grow your organization, be sure to implement formal processes for business creativity and idea generation. Fortunately these processes are easy to implement, and will have multiple benefits to your bottom line.

In the interview, Dr. Robinson gave some great advice for implementing formal processes for idea generation in your company. He also provided great ideas for assessing new ideas, making sure new ideas don't interrupt the process of implementing existing plans, and dealing with bad ideas, among many other key topics.

To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:



Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/379.cfm

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