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Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

Permission to Fail, Sir?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Organizations whose cultures forbid failure are organizations that will become stagnant, lacking the resourcefulness and innovation necessary to succeed.

When failure isn’t an option, there’s no incentive to take even the smallest risk in trying something new.  If an employee knows he’ll be punished for failing, he’ll be careful to stay well within the boundaries of accepted practice.  And then it’s not just failure that isn’t an option; it’s any kind of change or improvement.

Obviously you don’t want to encourage wildly impractical risk-taking or invite catastrophic failure.  So how can you encourage employees to take sensible risks, learn from their mistakes, and – as the saying goes – “fail forward” into success? (more…)

Diversity: Your Ticket Out of the Comfort Zone

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

We tend to focus on diversity as an issue of workplace relationships.

It’s much more than that.

When we limit our focus to whether or not people are “playing nicely” together, the idea of diversity can take on a lot of destructive baggage.  We can even begin thinking that it would be easier if we had a less diverse workforce.  After all, if everyone were more alike, we wouldn’t have to deal with these issues – right?

Maybe, and maybe not. (more…)

Business Innovation – Turning Problems Into Solutions

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Problems, Problems, Problems – Wouldn’t life be grand if we never had any problems. Everything would work perfectly, everyone would always get along and be happy, everything would be wonderful for everyone everywhere, and things would only get better as we live happily ever after.

Unfortunately, in the real world there is no avoiding the grim realities of the dark side. Viewed from a business perspective – take the number of problems of each person, multiply by the number of employees, multiply the result by every single aspect of doing business, and the final result is what keeps every business owner chewing their fingernails down to the bone. (more…)

10 Discussion Questions for Training Sessions on Creativity

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

People often underestimate their own abilities to be creative, and because of this, they’re afraid or unwilling to stretch their imaginations to look at their lives or work from new and different angles.  The discussion questions below can be used in any type of session on creativity, innovation or brainstorming. They can be used to help make any or all of the following points:

– Creativity is not something we learn; it’s something we’ve forgotten but can relearn.
– Creativity is within us all; we must learn to stop judging ourselves and take risks which free our imaginations.
– A willingness to explore creative solutions is a reflection of our desire to effect positive change in ourselves, our teams and organizations.
– It is important that we support and build on ideas from all team members.
– Creativity can become an everyday part of our lives–we just need to look around and see the world in different ways.
– Teams and organizations need to identify those things that stimulate creativity and those that dull it.

Now, here are 10 discussion questions you might want to use in a session you’re facilitating on creativity:

1. Name creative people you know or have heard of–they don’t have to be famous.  What are some of the things they’ve done that you consider creative?

2. What are some of the creative things you’ve seen children do?  When you’re with them, do they make you more creative?

3. What’s the last creative thing you did?  When did you do it?  If it’s been a long time, why?

4. Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said “We fail forward to success.”  What does she mean by this?  Can you think of examples in your life where you “failed forward”?

5. According to Pablo Picasso, “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”  What do you think must be destroyed?  Is it possible to apply Picasso’s creative philosophy to your workplace?

6. Your manager comes in and says, “We need an answer to our problem of overstocked inventory. See if you can think of a good solution.”  Does this approach stimulate or inhibit your creative juices?  Why?

7. Creativity can often lead to conflict and instability. Why do you think this is? And why then might you want more creativity in your life or organization?

8. If you were told you’d be given $500 for coming up with the best solution to an organizational problem, do you think you’d be more or less creative? Why?

9. Think of several things you do as part of your regular “routine” (e.g. what you eat, what time you wake up in the morning, when you exercise, the people with whom you socialize at work).  Which would be the hardest for you to change?  What habits would you change first if you thought it would be easy?

10. When you’re in a group, what type of behaviors help stimulate your creativity? What type of behaviors or comments diminish it?

Material excerpted from the Leader’s Guide to the training program Team Creativity.

Need help in this area? Are there things going on in your organization today that would benefit from a creative problem-solving effort? The inspirational case study shared in The Magic of We sets the stage for individuals, teams and departments from throughout the organization to work together on finding solutions.

From Vision to Reality…The Innovation Process

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

What Is Innovation?
It is not:

  • The result of a lone genius inventor.
  • Just about ideas (The problem is that people often do not know where to go with ideas or how to implement them, which is sometimes a problem with suggestion-box systems).
  • About individuality in thinking (which is what suggestion-box systems tend to focus on).

Rather it is:

  • A collaborative process where people in many fields contribute to implementing new ideas. Teams are very important to the process.
  • About products and processes, both future and present.
  • Involving people who will challenge the status quo. The person who moans and groans and complains the most may be the source of the next great innovation.

Where Does Innovation Begin?
It begins with an idea, which comes from nowhere-such ideas usually die unless a fertile ground exists to develop them, or a goal-an outlandish or unreasonable demand or goal, one that a continuous improvement process will not reach. Either situation will often may spark innovation.

How Do You Get These Ideas?

1 With time pressure!

  • Being under the gun, with a deadline, adds a sense of consequence to the task and a purpose to spur it.

2 By facing a challenge…seemingly unreasonable!

  • Studies show that positive thinkers rise to a challenge. The more they are likely to face defeat, the more they want to beat it.

3 By abandoning old paradigms!

  • Abandoning the status quo, like rules, policies, and set procedures. Only when you leave the rules behind, can you be free to create. This is critical to successful innovation.

The Innovation Process…From Vision to Reality

1. Capture the Visions and Ideas
Individuals brainstorm answers to broad-based questions such as “What is impossible to do in your organization, department or business today, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change what your organization/ department/ business does?” Questions such as this are often driven by the customer or an unreasonable demand or a goal.

The individual answers to these questions help to see the boundaries of a new organization! Responses are usually recorded on sticky notes. Generally there will be one idea/vision per yellow sticky. That is where innovation begins.

2. Create the Innovation Team
Assemble a cross-functional team with members that are able to be responsible for exploring and implementing the innovations. It is important to include both creative and practical individuals. This creates a nice balance in the team since you’ll have a mix of people who keep challenging and asking “why” combined with those who will keep challenging and asking “how”. Sometimes those who will be impacted by the innovation are included on the team. These may even be the customers.

3. Develop the Innovation Statements
Begin by recording all ideas and visions, reviewing the entire list and then organizing the ideas that are similar into groups. From this grouping of ideas develop statements that represent the ideas in each group. The team will then need to agree on which Innovation Statements to explore further and then try to quantify the benefits of each statement of ideas.

4. Identify the Benefits of Each Innovation
Now is the time to examine each Innovation Statement in depth and to explore the benefits of moving forward with each one. The team may want to give consideration to how each Innovation Statement fits with the organization’s strategy, mission and objectives as well as the overall business potential for each innovation and impact on the customer. Essentially the innovation team is beginning to detail the appeal of the innovations without concern for current thinking, policy or procedure

5. Identify and Overcome Innovation Blockages
Identify the blockages and barriers that might stop the organization from implementing each innovation. This may require the innovation team to review their basic assumptions about the way things are currently done that must change.

Once identified and recorded, the team will need to identify possible options and solutions to overcome the blockages to implementing each viable innovation. At this stage of the process expect a large list of possible options and solutions. Through the next step, however, the team will cut them down to a select few or one.

6. Prioritize Implementation of the Innovations
The best innovations can be identified by either multi-voting, as a team, on all identified options and thereby reducing the list to those core areas that everyone agrees are the best ones to use to implement the innovations, or by completing a more detailed analysis of each option by using a priority evaluation process.

It is also possible to reduce the number of options or solutions through multi-voting and then to apply a priority evaluation process to this reduced list. This will help to identify the key options or solutions, which if implemented, will ensure the innovation is successfully implemented.

7. Develop the Business Effectiveness Strategy
Now that innovations have been assessed and selected for possible implementation, the team is ready to develop a high-level implementation plan. At this stage, they will determine who will hold responsibility for the implementation and how much time they will require to fully implement. The team will also need to do some research to identify budget requirements, determine measurement criteria and compare their findings with the innovation benefits they had identified at Step 4.

8. Create Breakthrough Events, Processes, Structures and Strategies Through the Innovations

With an implementation plan developed, the innovation team is ready to develop a project plan and identify their sponsor. The sponsor will provide the support, required resources and budget to implement the innovations. There may be some change requirements for the staff and customers. There must be a communication process to the staff and customers to gain their buy-in and support during the implementation of the innovations.

9. Start Again….
In time, it often becomes obvious that what was once an innovation no longer fits. Continuous improvement of the existing process, product, or service is no longer of value; perhaps the former innovation has now become outdated or outmoded. It is time to let it go; abandon the existing thinking, and set a new goal to start the innovation process once again. It is time for new innovations in response to external pressure for change.

Innovation & Organizations
Every organization undergoes innovation or else it is not successful. It is just a matter of degree. The essence of innovation is discovering what your organization is uniquely good at, what special capabilities it possesses, and how it can take advantage of these capabilities to build products or deliver services that are better than anyone else’s? Every organization has unique strengths. Success comes from leveraging these strengths in its own service or product market place.

Innovation & Globalization
Today, many organizations operate globally. They find that innovation can occur anywhere, in any country or culture. Traditionally, innovation has been a local issue, not transferred to other corporate locations. But today, innovation teams, similar to improvement teams, work on innovation surrounding a product or service and then develop a centrally planned roll out. For process innovations, the local organization implements them and then, because of enhanced communication, the innovation moves from location to location. This is accomplished by using the technology available today, including the worldwide web, teleconferencing, and video-conferencing.

Take Action!!
Innovation is an action. To encourage yourself to take action, let me leave you with some famous words of hope from George Bernard Shaw:

“You see things and you say, why? But I dream things and I say, why not?”

Author Biography
Michael Stanleigh is President of Business Improvement Architects, a consulting firm that guides organizations to align their business strategy with their culture, performance systems and projects to reduce waste and increase profitability. Author of the recent global report: “From Crisis to Control: A New Era in Strategic Project Management”, you may reach him at mstanleigh@bia.ca. (www.bia.ca)

Reprinted from hr.com, your source for knowledge, expertise and resources.

Training Solution: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Results If you think your ideas are too small to make a difference, the people in this video will prove you wrong. Watch how ordinary people make big, powerful and lasting changes at their companies.

How to Kill a Great Idea

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Assumptions: A major roadblock to innovation
By Mitchell Ditkoff

Thomas Edison had a very simple way of conducting job interviews. He’d invite prospective employees to join him for soup in the company cafeteria. If they salted their soup before tasting it, the interview was over. Plain and simple. Given the nature of his work – where even a single stone unturned could mean the difference between the failure or success of a costly product – Edison could not afford to surround himself with people ruled by faulty assumptions.

Of all the roadblocks to innovation, assumptions are the worst. Invisible, insidious and habitual, they stop us before we even start – the default position for those of us too consumed by our past to consider the future the way it really is: pure potentiality.

Definition of an assumption
What is an assumption? Simply put, it’s “taking something for granted”. A “supposition.” We do it all the time – although not always to our detriment. For example, if you leave your toothbrush in the bathroom at night, it’s safe to assume that it will be there in the morning. Your assumption saves you lots of time searching for it in the kitchen or garage. Other assumptions, however, don’t work out quite as well – despite the seeming evidence for their veracity. Many of our ancestors, for example, assumed the earth was flat. They had “proof.” They saw it with their own eyes. But their so-called proof – their inaccurate interpretation of existing phenomena – was a far cry from reality. And it was precisely because of their faulty assumptions, that many of our ancestors missed out on the New World and all the fabulous beachfront property that came with it.

Think about it. If every ten years half of what scientists believe to be true is proven to be false, how much of what your decisions are based on is anything more than just a temporary – and not very elegant – arrangement of half-baked perceptions, flaky factoids, and loosely interpreted statistics?
Take a minute now to consider what you may be assuming falsely. What conclusions have you drawn that prevent you from sailing new oceans? What beliefs are you bound by that are likely to be laughable three years from now? Are you absolutely sure you know what your customers want? Are you positive your manager won’t free up the money to fund your latest idea? Can you say, without a shadow of a doubt, that your current strategy to accomplish your “stretch goal” is based on anything more than hearsay and hot talk?

Famous assumptions
But hey, you’re not alone in your tendency to jump to conclusions. Join the club as you consider some of these (now famous) limiting assumptions throughout history:

“I think there is a world market for about five computers.” (Thomas Watson, founder of IBM)

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” (Charles Duell, Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899)

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” (Albert Einstein)

“The phonograph is not of any commercial value.” ( Thomas Edison)

“I don’t need body guards.” (Jimmy Hoffa)

“Man will not fly for 50 years.” (Wilbur Wright, 1903)

“640K ought to be enough for anybody.” (Bill Gates)

“With over 50 foreign cars on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.” (Business Week, 1968)

Conclusion
What is your biggest assumption about your hottest new idea? What is your company’s most pervasive, collective assumption? What can you do today to identify the one assumption most likely to sabotage your future success? What can you do to go beyond it?

Mitchell Ditkoff is president of Idea Champions, www.ideachampions.com
Reprinted from innovationtools.com

Training Solution: Pigeonholed in The Land of Penguins This video shows your employees how to see their co-workers in a new and different way; and helps them tap into the creativity of every team member.

8 Ways to Generate More Ideas in a Group

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

The scene is repeated in meeting rooms around the world every day. A problem has been identified and a group has gathered to solve the problem. When ideas are needed, the group decides to brainstorm. And all too often this exercise leads to a short list of not-that-creative ideas.

We know that if we generate more ideas we have a better chance of finding better ideas. This leads us to the logical conclusion that if we can find techniques to create more ideas, we will find better ones. No one technique however will guarantee the perfect solution. Instead your goals should be to have a variety of approaches to help stimulate idea creation in your repertoire. By doing this you will improve the overall quality of ideas by virtue of having more to choose from.

Whether you are unhappy with the current creativity of your group or are having good success with brainstorming sessions, but would like them to be even better, any of the eight suggestions below can help.

Look at problems in different ways. Get the group to change their perspective on the problem. Once people “lock into” one way of looking at things the idea flow will slow to a trickle. Have people take a new persona. Ask them to look at the issue from the perspective of another group – accounting, HR, or sales for example. Ask them to think about how their grandmother or an 8 year old would solve the problem. These are simple ways to force people into a new perspective and the new perspectives will generate more ideas.

Make novel combinations. The ideas that land on the flip chart or whiteboard in a brainstorming session are typically considered individually. Have the group look at the initial list and look for ways to combine the ideas into new ones.

Force relationships. Once a group is finished with their initial list, provide them with words, pictures or objects. The objects can be random items, the words can come from a randomly generated list or from pictures in magazines or newspapers. When people have their random word, picture or item, have them create connections between the problem and their item. Use questions like, “How could this item solve our problem?” What attributes of this item could help us solve our problem?”

Make their thoughts visible. Have people draw! Too often the brainstorming session has everyone sitting except the person capturing the ideas. Let people doodle and draw and you never know what ideas may be spurred.

Think in opposites. Rather than asking your direct problem question, ask the opposite. “How could we ensure no one bought this new product?” could be one example. Capturing the ideas on “the opposite,” will illuminate ideas for solving the actual problem.

Think metaphorically. This approach is similar to forcing relationships (and is another way to use your words, pictures or items). Pick a random idea/item and ask the group, “How is this item like our problem?” Metaphors can be a very powerful way to create new ideas where none existed before.

Prepare. Too often people are asked to brainstorm a problem with no previous thinking time. If people have time to think about a topic, and let their brains work on it for awhile, they will create more and better ideas. Allow people to be better prepared mentally by sharing the challenges you will be brainstorming some time before the meeting whenever possible.

Set a Goal. Research shows and my experience definitely confirms that the simple act of giving people a quantity goal before starting the brainstorming session will lead to a longer list of ideas to consider. Set your goal at least a little higher than you think you can get – and higher than this group typically achieves. Set the goal and watch the group reach it!

While these suggestions have all been written from the perspective of a group generating ideas, they all work very well for individuals too. The next time you need to solve a problem by yourself, use these techniques and you will be astounded by the quantity of ideas you will generate!

By Kevin Eikenberry

Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. www.kevineikenberry.com Reprinted from innovationtools.com

Training Solution: Free Radicals of Innovation: Everyone wants to be creative, but most people fear change. This program shows the nine principles of innovation and how to make them work for your team.


 

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