Archive for category Innovation & Creativity

Remember when your business was small and fast, not big and awkward?

eye for work

Image is courtesy of 2nix

Your business has grown and so too has the culture of focusing on being a ‘big’ business.

You now have procedures for everything, policies to deal with all the things that could be a risk to your business and in the process your team have become ‘big’ in their thinking.

On reflection you might just think that you would like to have some of the small business culture you used to have. The sort of thinking that was more ‘seat of the pants’ faster to adapt, faster to decide and that degree of ‘nimbility’ was what got you going, the late nights, the furious work pace made sure your small team were fed with work. Now it just seems big and awkward.

You like so many aspects of that small business approach you want to now use that in your bigger business. You want your people to think faster, be more creative and problem solve like you used to, on the run. You want them to be more flexible and not bogged down by lengthy processes.

Here’s your chance to do just that, think of it as taking a mirror to your business and looking back to see just how these qualities can be achieved again.

Think fresh

When you started out you probably asked your customers lots of questions to figure out their needs, send your teams out to do the same and make it a random thing you instigate throughout the year. If they already do that look at other aspects of the business thinking that could be freshened up. If you hold meetings in the same in house room day in day out, find a new room, in another building, a park, a training venue… Wherever you can have fresh stimulus.

Stimulate learning

In the early days when your business was small, you learnt a lot about many things quickly and you coveted people that could do the same. This ‘learning on the fly’ approach solved many challenges for you, everything seemed like a prototype and I bet your team jumped in to help find solutions. Take a look at the processes involved, perhaps you now need a team when one person was given the job in the early days. Consider doing the same and create a ‘maverick’ a lead person who can jump in and learn, plough though as if there was no hold ups and pass on their findings to the team to develop.

Create what customers want

Go and ask them what they want, and or test a new product or service early in the development process to see if it has ‘legs’. no legs no development. There, you just save the business a lot of money and time… now get on with developing what people want or need.

Provide solutions

Top sales people will soon tell you they sell solutions, so give your people the ability to problem solve and find ways to see what they have is a solution to a customers need, then they will have tangible ways to engage the customers and be seen as a source of comfort in their time of need.

Success is working towards any worthwhile goal, in this simple list of starting points I feel sure you can get back some of that small startup magic and reinvigorate the team to get better results.

Regards

Steve Gray

I was shocked, and then I realised…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I watched in horror at first, then they simply continued!

On reflection they did the best possible thing, so simple yet it worked a treat! I was witnessing what I had come to see, a team that had a rock solid induction program for new employees. Their drop out rate was low, their success rate post induction very high.

The secret was very simple, although I was told it took them a long while to figure out what needed to be done. The aim was good, to make sure the induction program gave new employees the best chance of success going into their role in a new company.

One of the best things they did was the early research, those that didn’t do so well were solidly interviewed to find out why. The answers ranged from, the recruitment process right through to the induction program. Some of it was a clash with the approach the Trainers used, for others it was the lack of depth in the training.

Identifying and consistently working on the program gave them a best practice approach to work with.

Here are just some of the big changes they made.

  • Make the new people feel fantastic – They made sure that the arrival of the new people was as stress free and openly welcoming as possible, hand shaking, warm smile, a top notch training room, equipment and facilities. The start time was purposely 1/2 an hour later than normal, parking had been paid for and made seemless, lunch provided and any details not quite right were adjusted post haste
  • No nasties – The training program had been worked on to ensure it was direct and punchy, the speakers were coached and stayed within their time frames and followed the outline of what they had to say
  • Repetition works – When the program got underway the details of company wide tasks such as answering the phone were clearly outlined, then practiced over and over in ways that defied the old ‘rote learning’ miserable repetition. The training team had developed a simple video, worked out a series of small team coaching approaches and worked with each person to ensure they got the basic message and clarified the details. Each new employee was then given a link to an in house video to follow up with and practice in their own time
  • Real people with real feedback – At various times team memebers from various parts of the organisation came in and gave a few minutes of their view of the organisation and why they were believed they were part of a fantastic winning team. They spoke in glowing terms about the organisation as well as giving real world examples of challenges they faced and how their supervisors coached and mentored them through the challenges
  • Day two begins… – A review of the previous days highlights soon got the room energised and up to speed and ready to tackle new material. The training crew had also checked out how many views the online in house training video had, they were pleased to report the view number was high. Discussion took place about details of the video which lead into more hot topics on ways things were done company wide
  • Interactive – The new recruits were given ample opportunity to interact with each other and discuss what they had learnt, reviewing the material presented. They then had the chance to discuss any challenges with the trainers and speakers
  • Practical points and conecpts too – While the practicalities of the organisation and the role were discussed, so too were the underlying concepts and notions that caused the organisation to be what it is. The mission and vision with a full values list were put forward. The group then explored the values in action, with examples given from current employees and training staff alike. Another link was provided to a slide show with narration on how the values could be worked on, develop and explored
  • Catch up time – The whole group was given a time to get together again in a few weeks to discuss how things were going and ways to make the next induction process even more effective. Of courrse they were also given details of their “support buddy” in their area and a HR contact to chat to as well.

You can imagine how thrilled I was to witness all of this, clearly a first class organisation that cares about it’s team members and the vital role they play in the organisations success. Shocked, yes because this level of care they were willing to show, and clearly how they wanted their external paying customers to feel as well.. I smiled widely!

It was about then the alarm went off and I woke up.

Hope you enjoyed my outline, I can only hope that one day most mid to large organsiations actually do this as a matter of course.

Regards

Steve Gray

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Marketing debrief

goal

Image courtesy of Pakorn from www.freedigitalphotos.net

Ask some of the team in your organisation and they will probably shoot down anything that looked weird, strange “creative’. They probably can not see if it made any change to the number of people thinking about what you have to offer.

They probably can’t see the people who have become customers because of the ‘creative’ approach, nor can they appreciate the prospects who have been caught in the web of information and intrigue caused by the ‘creative approach’.

There you are all alone looking at the statistics and you note the things that give you the logic to build a case for the marketing efforts thus far. The big thing you note are those ‘things’ that are probably leading prospects into your ‘marketing funnel’ but you know these are hard to measure.

This can be caused by simple things.

  • Some people don’t let you know – Let’s face it LOTS of people don’t let you know where they heard about your organisation, you have to ask and very actively listen, even then they might not tell you about the ‘messages’ you sent out to tease them or the lines of text designed to entice.
  • Some staff don’t tell you either… – You, and your staff, may have your favourite supplier of goods and services so you might tend to ignore the pushy promotional company, even though their product made a positive impact. When your boss asks about what’s working, you tend to put a spin on the suppliers you prefer. Your staff also spot the things they ‘like’ but don’t let you know. Oh and how about recording in the inital moments of the customer making contact how they heard about you… no they failed to do that too huh… Better luck next time!
  • The results aren’t in yet – You know that the ten thousand promotional pens and other goodies handed out at the expo last month were well received, yet due to the first point made you won’t hear about it. Not until you are in their office and see they have circulated a stack of your freebie handouts. Also the teaser adverts you placed to build interest and send people to your website are still happening and trying to figure out which one is ‘doing the trick’.
  • Five teasers one result – You might have placed a few teaser adverts, blog articles, QR scanning images and the like about the place but which one would you keep if you had to cut back? You know the end result is useful, in fact you would like to be able to develop more teasers to funnel people in to your business, but try telling that to your boss!
  • Test and test some more… – You have been told this and you still haven’t tested the six different adverts, or the 9 step customer acquisition program… It’s time to ask more questions, find more answers and test some more.
  • Nine out of ten people agree – Research says something is so, and the people love to see those statistics, reference points and socially acceptable keys for why they should by what your organisation offers. Your problem is you see that the current run of adverts and promotional devices does not mention these ‘pearls’ of wisdom, oh well next time…

So how did the campaign go? Did the sales department go into melt down because the leads came thick and fast? Did everyone in the organisation support all aspects of the campaign or were there things that caused upset? Did any customers have disparaging remarks about the marketing, wording adverts etc? (Hey you could be lucky!)

Now you have a list of possible reasons why (or why not), logical reasons, quantitative reasons. Your marketing is only as good as what works, your challenge is how to measure it and know where theings fit in teh scheme of things.

Regards

Steve Gray

The in & out of innovation

Innovation, perhaps your organisation is talking about it, perhaps some of you are reading about it, but the fact is if you are not doing it, the words and thoughts are somewhat useless.

Image courtesy of 89studio via freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of 89studio via freedigitalphotos.net

If like me you find when you raise the word at a meeting you might see a few raised eyebrows (In horror) and a few people nodding in agreement and others wondering if it will mean more work for them… The few that nodded may want to look like yes men so it’s down to one ore perhaps two that want to follow the ‘innovation’ thing, whatever it is…

So now you realise that just because the word innovation is in the mission and vision, values document  you all so proudly developed, does not mean a suitable level of understanding about it is common.

If you take that further and talk about creativity as somehow being a part of innovation you might find other barriers start to pop up.

In the end someone in authority says “Innovate if it adds value to the organisation” to which a Smart Alec replies (probably in their head) “how would you measure that and over what time frame?”

The Smart Alec is right, you can implement change or a creative approach but it may take a long while to ‘buy in’ or results to take place. I envisage someone comes up with an idea to do some in house training on creativity and see where it leads to. Only to find it adds little value (for now) with a lot of time, effort and energy expended, someone in Authority stops paying the bills and the innovation ‘program’ stops.

The next time someone mentions the word innovation a whole bunch of people have a giggle remembering the last time a ‘program’ was explored, while others duck for cover not wanting to be seen as supporters of the last effort.

Somewhere in the process of exploration one of the staff asks for a definition of what innovation means, and starts to compile a few ideas, then matches what is already happening in the organisation and finds there are already small innovative options in play. Seems as though no one told anyone what it was, so no one knew what it looked or felt like.

It seems that sometimes people stand on top of a lookout to see a far off view, while others are enjoying the immediate surroundings, knowing that someone else might be looking back and them from another lookout.

It’s all about the view, if you don’t like it change it, but if it’s already paradise but you just haven’t seen it then perhaps it’s time to get a new set of glasses.

Creating more business possibilities

Businesses often fail to see the creative input that happens in their company. Sometimes their teams use creative approaches and don’t even know it. It can be small scale things, small scale thinking that causes them to come up with a solution or a possibility. Perhaps they do some brainstorming and explore some options with other team members, then they create options towards a solution.

Most people seem to think that a creative approach to anything in their business will be a big fanfare, a bringing together of minds to push some boundaries find options and get out of a rut. If you’re like me you have attended a few sessions with a ‘guru’ to help develop a mission and vision statement and all the CEO can see is the amount of people in one room they are paying to sit around and throw soft toys at each other, then have a yummy lunch together, meanwhile there are day to day tasks being left behind… Oh the travesty! Sometimes the staff see this as a waste too… HEY who organised this?

In reality both approaches can have value, the challenge can be to make the creative appreciated, valued, and find ways to foster it to cause useful results to come from it.  Results, that’s where the challenge lies, however history has shown many organisations have thrived due to creative approaches to problem solving, therefore get creative and get results!

Remember, most work done by our brains is logical, so getting creative can have the benefit of allowing us to ‘flex’ our brains and probably provide your team with a renewed interest in work.

Here’s some approaches to consider.

Feed your brains with fresh material – You and your team can be stimulated in ways which can lead to fresh approaches and modes of discovery. Find ways to get fresh information into your heads without getting bogged down in just obviously logical work connected options, open things out to include other material.

  • Travel – Clearly travel gives you fresh stimulus, even on a small scale, going to work a different way, finding a new suburb to ‘check out’ even a walk in a new park can be of value.
  • Creative exploits – Check out Art galleries, new music, or performances. Seeing how others experience and portray the world around them can lead to new internal connections in your brain and stimulus.
  • An inspiring speaker – Ever listened to an inspiring person tell their story? Usually people say the time flew, and that they were totally engaged in the process from start to finish. Consider ways to make that happen.
  • Exploring thinking – Philosophical ‘conversations’, even scientific ones can give fresh approaches to how we experience and view the world.
  • New Business approaches – Meetings getting bogged down? Teams unstimulated? Then figure out ways to alter the work situation so the meetings take on a fresh flavour, the teams are stimulated and you can get things buzzing. Take a look at ways to do this on the internet, there is sure to be a lots of ways to cause things to stimulate in your work environment. For starters consider a ‘show and tell’ session for fresh idea development. (keep it short and sharp.)

Create new maps – Imagine exploring a new area of wilderness, no map just your senses to make ‘sense’ of what you see, you might start out with some logical ideas (here’s where we started in the ‘known universe’) but what you find in the new territory is anyone’s guess. In your mind your new creative discoveries can be just like this a new map being formed in your head.

Get in the zone – It could be a notice board, a place to share on the ‘intranet’ a meeting room with a difference, an open space where creativity is highly valued. Then invite your people to use it as a creative development zone.

Out of all of that you and your team can get your creative juices flowing and let any results speak for themselves (it may just be employee engagement, but it could be a heap of other options as well) The big thing is to give it a go to see what’s possible.

Cultural fit, it’s what makes your business successful

You have a new idea for the business, you try it it doesn’t work… oops you try something else, oops. You start to get wary of trying new things (understandable). Others come up with ideas, you are reluctant to try them out. It all comes down to cultural fit. Let’s try an example.

You run a bike store selling Harley Davidsons and related regalia and have a successful business, your clientele is rough and tough (just ask them) or they want to be rough and tough (or at least look that way). The shop next door closes down and you have the chance to knock a hole in the wall and expand, sounds great yeah… But you realise there is so much room in there you can’t fill it.

A suggestion happens “Open a coffee shop” (you think a bar would be better but hey your previous ideas have tanked remember…) your partner agrees and puts in some nice tables, sets up a coffee machine, adds some cupcakes etc and vroom (like the topical touch?) you have a cafe.

Question, is it a good cultural fit?

That all depends on how business goes after that. Is there a decline in sales, people through the door and the length of times they stay? Is it on the positive side or not… If not why not?

Let’s say things take a slide, who or what are you going to blame? simple the Cafe, especially if the cafe is decked out to look like Grandma did the decor.

Now take a look at your business, how well do things fit for the staff, the clients and prospects?

Example, in your marketing, did you create and run an advert that failed to create any results? Many of us have done that. But what was it that caused it to fail? You looked at where it would be seen, you checked out the target audience, you compared prices with similar advertising, you did your research and found that other advertisers benefitted from the adverts they ran. You look at the advert and it reads okay, it looks okay but it died. Look at the target market what did they see? did it inspire them to take action? or did it miss the mark.

Perhaps you went for a way out creative angle and no one noticed or cared, when your target market is conservative and simply wanted to know the benefits of what you have to offer. Perhaps it was the other way around.

Cultural fit is vital if you want to connect with your target audience.

Lets say you develop a factory to make Wobbly Widgets, things go okay and you find the staff work ok for a while and then productivity starts to fade, you call a consultant they give you a few tips, one you can afford is to add piped music into the restroom facilities, nice touch, but pick music that has a wrong cultural fit and you could find the staff get annoyed rather than inspired.

Take a look at and think very carefully about how all aspects of your business fit culturally for the intended audience, you may just find a few things are out of alignment, adjusting these might make the world of difference.

 

Dear customer service guy…

So the customer service guy calls me for his six monthly “touch base” chat to see if everything is going OK. Yes it is thanks…

A few quick questions, an apology for calling in case it interrupted me… “No it hasn’t but go on…”

There was little point to the call other than to keep his name in the top of my mind, IF I wanted to buy a car from their dealership.” No I don’t but thanks…”

So where’s the value and how might he enhance the conversation to make it worth our while?

  • The value is that he has kept in touch, but that’s it.
  • The value could be enhanced if he had an offer for me, a test drive in a new model, the chance to go into a draw for some promo gift thingy to the value of… or even just sent a remember me gift (small cost effective thingy) or to tell me they have a new smart phone app or perhaps arrange an event to invite me to in their dealership.

Perhaps he could enhance the value by asking me a set of questions to establish if things have changed for us and our needs. A quick on the phone survey could give them great info (if they bothered to collect it).

It’s all about relationships, so is he managing to keep the relationship going or is he managing to just give me fodder for the blog J I like blog fodder!

Ok I like this guy, don’t get me wrong, but it must get hard for him just making these calls. Rather than being a cost to the company it could be a solid relationship building exercise, a wow factor exercise, an “Oh yeah and next time I want to buy a luxury vehicle, I will drop in and see you for sure…”. But it’s not, not yet.

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