Business Innovation For Dummies
Business innovation usually isn’t on people’s agendas or weekly calendars, but it’s the most significant thing you can do to make a contribution in your workplace or boost your own career. Ask yourself what you could do today that might improve the way people work, shop, or live, or that could cut costs, solve a problem, or break through a barrier that’s slowing you or your business down.
Motivating Yourself to Be More Innovative in Business
Finding ways to innovate and add creativity to your business and career is fun and very rewarding. The following questions can help motivate you to dive into the process of creating new ideas to jump-start change in your workplace:
What is the biggest problem or challenge at work — and how can I make a little progress toward solving it today?
What questions can I ask my team at work to stimulate their creative thinking about possibilities and new directions?
How can I get through my routine obligations quickly enough to have some time and energy left for thinking about new possibilities?
Why do I do my work in the way I usually approach it?
What things slow down my team, and how could we eliminate these bottlenecks?
What resources are the most limited and limiting to our growth, and what can we do about it?
What are the most interesting opportunities available to me right now, and how could I find a way to take advantage of one to gain new skills?
What assumptions do I make about what I can’t do, and could I be wrong about one of them?
What’s the best new design, invention, recipe, or method I’ve seen all week, and does it inspire me to think of something I could invent or design?
Am I being pessimistic about something that’s making me feel bad, and what would it feel like if I forced myself to say more optimistic things about it?
Who do I know who has a positive, creative attitude, and can I find some time to talk to him or her today or tomorrow?
How to Deal with a Negative Boss
If you’re bursting with good ideas, but your boss always rejects suggestions out of hand, it’s very hard to stay positive and continue to think innovatively. Use these suggestions to keep your own creative spirit alive and to try to bring about positive change in your business in spite of the negative atmosphere:
Brainstorm strategies for making change. You and your coworkers have probably witnessed some improvements and changes in your workplace. Even the most negative boss can’t stop all forward progress. So ask yourself how those changes came about. Determine what process is most acceptable to your boss and who he feels he has to listen to. Then re-create the successful strategies when you decide to propose something new.
Avoid too much interaction with a negative boss. Try to keep face time to the minimum required and to keep your encounters civil and polite. Spend as much time as you can interacting with people who are more positive and have a healthy can-do attitude so that your own attitude doesn’t turn negative.
Innovate outside work. Find ways to engage in creative, forward-thinking activities such as volunteer work, a part-time extra job, an internship, or a hobby so that you stay fresh and get to strengthen your innovation muscles. A bad boss is no excuse to let your creativity atrophy!
Make suggestions on paper, not in person or by e-mail, to give your boss time to digest them. The longer you can delay his response to a suggestion, the more likely he is to get over his initial knee-jerk resistance to change and actually look at the merit of your idea.
Allow your boss to revise your idea and propose it as his own. It’s frustrating when your boss rejects your suggestion and then proposes it himself a month later. But look at the bright side: At least this means there’s a way to make progress, even if it does involve accommodating an overinflated ego.
Build your own coalition for innovation. Sometimes, it’s possible to reach out to others in power in a workplace and build a strong personal network based on your bright ideas and enthusiasm for positive change. You may be able to work with your coalition to bring about innovation. Let them pull your boss’s strings and force him to bring your unit in line with the new direction you helped create.
Watch the bottom line, and jump ship if your boss seems determined to run you up on the rocks. The biggest problem with change-resistant bosses is they don’t lead very well. Often, their department, division, or business does poorly for lack of innovation. If that’s the story at your workplace, you probably should begin to look for another job with a better boss and more momentum. It’s hard to be a rising star when you’re working on a sinking ship.
Five Ways to Generate a Better Business Option Now
When you’re stuck with a tough decision — between a rock and a hard place — it’s time to invent a third, better option. Just think creatively, and look at the problem from a new perspective. Here are five ways to expand your thinking and find a better option right now:
Explain to all parties what’s wrong with the current options, and ask them if they can come up with alternatives. Sometimes, all it takes is asking!
Do some additional research. Get online, and search for someone who has a better approach. New designs, vendors, inventions, and much, much more are at your fingertips if you just take the time to do a thorough search.
Grab two other people, find a table or conference room, and start brainstorming. Don’t stop until you’ve generated several more options. Then pick the most appealing idea, and do another round of brainstorming to refine it. It’s amazing how much progress you’ll make when you commit to thinking hard about a problem for a couple hours.
Copy someone else’s success. Someone’s probably faced the dilemma you’re in and already come up with a better solution. Learn from that person instead of trying to reinvent the wheel. The process of learning from other people’s success is called benchmarking. All you have to do is think of some person (or organization) that must have wrestled with your problem already and then call up that person and ask what he or she did.
Watch out for patented inventions, of course. If you find that the perfect solution is patented, contact the owner and ask whether you can license the rights to use the design.
Find an expert. There are experts on just about everything at any major state university (or other college or university, but state schools tend to be more accustomed to handling questions from businesses). Admittedly, academic experts tend to be . . . well, academic, but they often have a different perspective from business executives, and that may be all you need to get started on an alternative plan of action.