The global recession has changed the landscape for business, for people, for markets and forever. A new order changes everything. It changes behaviour, attitudes, confidence, brands and how people decide.
One thing is for sure, the new way will not reflect the old way. A business, any business, waiting for ‘the good old days’ to return better have a rucksack full of survival gear. The ‘good old days’ are gone, the economic storm saw to that.
A new landscape creates new challenges. New challenges need new thinking and new thinking, new ideas.
When change comes, wants and needs change too. That means adjustment, connecting to your customer, understanding your new market and making sure your new message is relevant to new needs.
A heart stopping moment brings enormous change. When dams bust the choice has changed. It fast becomes ‘sink or swim’.
New ideas were never more welcome.
The One Big Idea
Unless you discovered or founded electricity, computers, Facebook, Twitter and so on, it is unlikely you will discover the ‘one big idea’ that will change your business.
The mistake is to wait patiently at the one armed bandit hoping for the big win. Sadly, the money, time and effort put into the shiny bright machine would have been better invested elsewhere.
Tom Peters famously said; “Successful companies are not hundreds of percent better than you in every way, they are 1% better in hundreds of ways” In other words, it’s all about lots of bricks building a robust wall. That takes time, effort and lots of ideas.
Few, very few organizations ever succeed in developing the one big idea. That’s an ambitious target. It’s easy to imagine an answer like “once in a blue moon” Waiting for a big idea is akin to waiting to win the lottery.
On the other hand, small ideas are often underrated and understated. They often occur based on need and are implemented without management approval or even their knowledge. They are led by individuals or departments to make their jobs easier or to improve the customer experience. That’s what makes them effective, that’s why they work
Good ideas are often subjected to the internal Resistance Movement.
The French were pretty good at it in WW2. They were small, agile, flexible and highly disruptive. They agitated, ambushed and destabilized a sleek professional enemy.
In many ways, it didn’t make sense. A very small number who could rock a big boat?
Many companies are big, sleek, professional and shiny. It’s just the Resistance Movement that still causes mayhem. Resistance to ideas that is. The underground secret society can set your march back months. Their agenda is instability, disruption and disorder.
But, the Resistance Movement today is about resisting change, ideas and a bright new path.
Resistance is a fear of loss, not just change. In your organisation, not a bad idea to break the peace and have a war. The old meaning of Resistance was good.
The new is quite the opposite. Today’s Resistance can halt an Army and stop the flow of innovative thought. Edward DeBono said; “The need to be right all the time is the biggest bar to new ideas. It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong than to be always right by having no ideas at all”
The first objective for any business is to create a culture, environment and atmosphere where ideas are sought, encouraged and acknowledged. Albert Einstein once said; “Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds”
Moods and Atmospheres
Ideas need a positive environment. It is impossible to brainstorm in a dreary, damp, dark place. Creativity demands vision. Ideas without vision aren’t just a bad dream, they are a nightmare. Creating the vision or idea can be an exciting adventure that successfully builds a team once cheerfully facilitated.
The first challenge is to set the tone. That means encouraging voices. It means making it safe to try but to fail. It means banning certain words and terms such as the Doubting Whinger who always starts with …. “A great idea – but” or, “Oh that won’t work” Worse still “What a bad idea”.
When the mood, tone and safety nets are set, let the ideas begin.
Ideas are exciting. They ignite passion and creative people are quickly in their element. But ideas are like helium filled balloons. They can escape and soar with no particular goal in mind. Yes, they look good. Sure, they are exciting. But, did they make a difference or achieve anything?
The first ‘rule’ is to make sure there is a purpose to an idea, in other words, a mission. The clearer the focus the sharper the outcome. Second is to create ‘idea rules’ In other words, the boundaries. They may be ideas for working with stakeholders, suppliers or customers. They could be ideas to inspire, excite or sell more.
Imagine an email subject box, you need to first fill in ‘the subject’ then create the boundaries. For example, they should be of low or no cost. They could have an objective of being different. They ought to always include a high impact on the customer and have a form of measurement.
Again, to borrow from Tom Peters; “Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast”
Thinking to Knowing
Brainstorming is exciting. Brainstorming can also get carried away and become far removed from reality, budgets or even the original target. Whilst instinct will always play a part in the ‘art and the science’ a really good idea will ultimately be anchored in reality and the current market demands.
That means research, substance and really knowing what is going on in your area. It is folly to invest people, time and effort into an ‘instinctive’ idea alone.
There is a very clever and useful guiding principle which should always be used on these occasions. It is; “Let’s move from we think to we know”
A good Idea culture must come from the top. If the head of the organisation does not openly buy into and participate in the process, it will become a futile and demoralizing exercise. Tokenism won’t do either but active support will encourage and foster future thinking.
Tom Peters again; “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”
A Perfect Day
Morale is a human emotion that has a high impact on performance. Raise morale and you raise performance. Morale does not come from raft building or great nights out. Morale comes from achievement. Achievement comes from a sense of pride, belonging and purpose. If you understand that, you will understand how to achieve peak performance.
We can only know how we are doing if we ask. We can only answer if we measure. A measure takes us out of we think and into we know.
An Idea is only an idea once it flies into action. Until then, it is a dreamy notion.
To help, here are a few excellent brainstorming guidelines that work for us;
(1) Don’t pass judgment. We don’t know but we will find out in time. For now, it’s valid.
(2) Capture every tiny idea. From little acorns grow big oak trees.
(3) Challenge the norm. Don’t follow it.
(4) Encourage far out thinking. You can reel it in later.
(5) Let everyone have their voice. It’s often the quiet ones who deliver the best ideas.
(6) Share the idea and push it together. More fun, more productive.
(7) Paint pictures, tell stories. People will understand.
(8) Stay with the headline. The story will follow.
(9) Set an Ideas target. The more the merrier.
(10) Know when the battery needs recharging. One day at a time.
Your business is their business. Their ideas can be yours. Nurture that and you won’t just survive, you will grow.
A few months ago I sat with my good friend, Padraig O’Ceidigh. He has a thing or two to teach the world about building a business. Like every truly successful person I have ever met, Padraig is humble, understated and devoid of ego. He is first and foremost a passionate teacher. I was the lucky recipient of an ad hoc master class. He talked people, his passions and ideas. Everything he said was precious. One thing stood out more than the rest. It’s a good thought to think on and a fitting close to the world of ideas;
“Conor, you can only go so far with your business. There comes a time when you have to step back if you want to go forward. You let your people at it. They will build your business for you. You just have to believe in them and then let them”
Come to think of it - what a good idea!
Conor Kenny is head of Hospitality Industry Consultants Conor Kenny & Associates who are experts in Sales, Marketing and Communications and who believe you are too. For further information log on to www.conorkenny.com or www.conorkenny.com/blog