Dollars and sense: Companies thrive on creativity, innovation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The pace of change in today’s business world is extreme. The globalization of the U.S. economy continues to impact virtually every industry. Your toughest competitor may be just down the road or 3,000 miles away in another country.

Even if you are in a business that is lucky enough not to be faced with stiff foreign competition, you are likely dealing with demanding customers expecting to receive high quality, fast service and the lowest price possible.

To meet the demands brought on by intense competition, many businesses are stressing the need for employees to become more creative and innovative.

For example, Ford Motor Company chief executive officer William Ford Jr., in a recent communication, specifically encouraged employees to be more innovative. Ford recognizes that a strong dose of creativity and innovation is critical to Ford’s survival.

Since ideas have a lifespan, how do we get employees to constantly think about innovation? The following is a short list of ideas being employed in many businesses.

uKnow your customer like never before. This sounds simple but in reality, it isn’t. Consumer culture (a new buzz term) is all about anticipating what consumers will want in the future even before it becomes apparent.

-Creativity and innovation must be part of the way your company does business. It cannot be just a special project or assigned to only selected employees.

-Risk taking to innovate must be encouraged and rewarded.

-Outsiders can accelerate innovation. NIH (not invented here) thinking must be eliminated.

Every business has the potential to improve significantly. A great place to start is with your existing customers. Solicit their opinions constantly.

And by way, when was the last time you asked your staff for their ideas and opinions about your business?

To survive and thrive in today’s fast changing ultra-competitive world, creativity and innovation must become part of your company’s culture.

The time to start on this mission is now. Unfortunately, many of us have a whole lot of work to do.