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Making Innovation central to your small business – part 4

creativeWe all expect a certain amount of regularity and repetition in our day to day lives. Upon arising in the morning we follow a particular routine to get the day started. There are certain things that we expect with a fair degree of regularity, from eating breakfast to getting the kids off to school to traveling to work. Innovation, on the other hand, is unpredictable and less familiar. Now we’re suddenly forcing ourselves to ask new questions about old processes, things we’ve never thought about before. Some companies have looked at “provocative inquiry” as one way to spark innovation – asking questions to get people to shift their paradigms. The following represents just a quick sampling of disruptive questions that can wipe out the status quo from any meeting room:


1. If you could only work on one project for a year to transform the business, what would it be and why?

2. What is the shortest path to the customer? How could we get there in 6 months?

3. What suffers more breakdowns: our products, our processes, or our people? How could we fix this?

4. It’s 2025 and we’re the best company to work for in the world: What two things did we do to earn this award?

5. If we could hire five more people, what unconventional skills would they have and why?






So you begin to get the idea of where innovation can lead. We might further add here that innovation is revolutionary precisely for the very reasons that make it so difficult to implement effectively. Innovation completely overturns the old, tried, and true traditional ways of doing things. Innovation is not comfortable but it’s vitally necessary for growth to occur.


Get comfortable with being uncomfortable


We often hear the expression, especially around the time of the Olympics, “No pain, no gain.” It’s almost a law of nature that any major invention, development, breakthrough, or innovation always will be the result of hard work, discipline, and determination. One of the first lessons you and your team will have to learn about formulating an effective approach to innovation is to agree on the fact that comfort is not an option. True innovation will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, and then some! The reason is simple. Only when we get outside of our own fixed paradigms, do we truly begin to see things in a different light. Innovation is all about challenging conventional ways of thinking, doing, and acting. It’s about getting uncomfortable with old and slavish routines and thinking up new ways of doing things. In an article entitled, Why Getting Comfortable with Discomfort is Crucial to Success, Margie Warrell points out this gem of wisdom: “In today’s competitive and fast changing workplace, we can never hope to achieve success unless we’re willing to embrace change and risk the discomfort of failure. In short, we must be willing to get comfortable with the discomfort involved with taking risks.





Think outside the box


The writer once was speaking with a colleague about innovation and the subject arose, as it invariably does in these types of discussions, about “thinking outside the box.” To this, the colleague quipped, “What box?”


The humorous illustration raises a valid point about the fixed nature of our paradigms. Instead of focusing on “thinking outside the box” why even bother about the box in the first place?






Boxes represent the confines imposed by old and stifled ways of thinking, the artificial boundaries of tradition and acceptance.


To progress to innovation you must get outside of the box and experience what it means to enjoy true freedom of thought!


In the next and last installment of this series we’ll look at a couple of additional power points to keep in mind as you organize your innovation team. Then we’ll wrap up the discussion by reviewing the highlights. Check back here tomorrow.


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