50 Ways to Put Innovation on the To-Do List

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 13:39 by kpotvin

Via today’s SmartBrief on Leadership, I saw an inspiring blog post, 50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation,” by Mitch Ditkoff of Idea Champions.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

#4. Always question authority, especially the authority of your own longstanding beliefs.

#8. Help people broaden their perspective by creating diverse teams and rotating employees into new projects -- especially ones they are fascinated by.

#12. Instead of seeing creativity training as a way to pour knowledge into people's heads, see it as a way to grind new glasses for people so they can see the world in a different way.

#30. Stimulate interaction between segments of the company that traditionally don't connect or collaborate with each other.

#41. Don't make innovation the responsibility of a few. Make innovation the responsibility of each and every employee with performance goals for each and every functional area.

But don’t stop here.  Read all 50 tips and be inspired to move innovation to the top of your to-do list in the New Year.

 

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Help Fight Pink Fatigue!

Thursday, 1 October 2009 07:47 by kpotvin

 

Each October, Splash goes pink to urge marketers and consumers to Fight Pink Fatigue.  As a symbolic gesture during National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we change the Splash logo from blue to pink.  Why do we do this?  As a breast cancer survivor and a marketer, I see the value of these cause-related efforts from both sides.  Three years ago, I was immersed in the cancer world, discovering more about it than I ever wanted.  One thing I learned quickly was that all the dollars funneled into attacking this disease are helping.  In the last decade, there has been much progress.  One reason is that the breast cancer awareness cause has gotten some great attention from Corporate America.  This support has made an important and positive impact on the prevention, detection and treatment of the disease…and I hope on the companies’ bottom lines too.  That’s my marketer side coming out.  After all, companies – no matter how altruistic -- are not going to continue cause-related programs if there is no return on investment.  So we say keep selling pink products, keep buying pink products and together we will keep breast cancer on the run.  For inspiration, here are a few examples of pink programs:

NFL – The NFL, its clubs and players launched a campaign, "A Crucial Catch," in partnership with the American Cancer Society.  It focuses on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are over the age of 40.  Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel to raise awareness for the campaign, as well as on-field pink ribbon stencils and special K-balls and pink coins. All apparel worn at games by players and coaches and special K-balls and pink coins will auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society and team charities.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) -- P&G launched GIVE HOPE, a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. to help increase women's chances of survival from breast cancer through early detection.  A special edition of the P&G brandSAVER coupon booklet was included in newspapers across the country this past Sunday to help kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month today. For every brandSAVER coupon redeemed from this booklet, a two-cent donation will be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc – with no cap.  Dancing With the Stars" host Carrie Ann Inaba is helping spread the word.

RedEnvelope --  When you shop the Pink Ribbon Collection at RedEnvelope, 10% of the revenue goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. When you purchase a gift from the Collection, you will receive free shipping for a limited time.

Yoplait (General Mills)Yoplait, in partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, launched Know Your Girls, a sassy interactive campaign geared to young women. Yoplait encourages young women to take a pledge to protect their "girls" and also share the information with their friends.  For every pledge received by October 31, 2009, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, up to $100,000.  

There are many other wonderful companies helping with this cause.  Tell us how you are fighting pink fatigue.

The Splash for the Cure Team joins thousands of walkers in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Exeter, NH, on Sunday, Oct. 18.  Last year's event raised $236,970 and we hope this year is even better.

 

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Happy Employees - A Competitive Advantage

Monday, 28 September 2009 18:02 by kpotvin

  

We recently ate at Texas Roadhouse with the kids.  As our hostess asked us if we’d like to select our steak from the butcher case of raw ribeyes, New York strips and filets, we learned she was a vegetarian.  How, we asked, could a vegetarian work at a steak restaurant?  She answered, “For the money – and it’s fun.”

We couldn’t argue with that.  This is the kind of place where you drop empty peanut shells on the floor, and where birthday celebrants perch on saddles as other diners shout, “Yee-ha!”  Also, you are bound to see the wait staff erupt into a “spontaneous” line dance – joined by customers.  All that and the food is pretty good.  One more thing:  The waiters wear black T-shirts which say on the back, “I (heart) my job.”  They really make you feel like they do. 

Employee happiness is important.  One study from earlier this year out of Kansas State University showed that happy employees could be an indicator of company success, an actual competitive advantage.  The study by Thomas Wright, Jon Wefald Leadership Chair in Business Administration and professor of management at K-State, found that “when employees have high levels of psychological well-being and job satisfaction, they perform better and are less likely to leave their job -- making happiness a valuable tool for maximizing organizational outcomes.”

Good pay, incentives for advancement, a motivating vision, recognition (see our recent story on the Art in Giving recognition program), training, a fun work environment – what are you doing to keep your team members happy and engaged?  Your customers…and business depend on it. 

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Keep Moving Forward

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 12:17 by kpotvin

Last night, I caught the end of the animated flick, "Meet the Robinsons," with my son and noticed a quote from Walt Disney (the man) before the closing credits. Here it is:

"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long.  We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

The movie celebrates imagination so the quote is a good fit.  Even better, it's an important reminder that while we should learn from the past, we need to "keep moving forward."  Stay curious.

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Borrowing Brilliance

Friday, 18 September 2009 09:11 by kpotvin

 

We’ve said it before:  Borrowing isn’t bad and we are happy that Author David Kord Murray agrees.  He just came out with a new book, “Borrowing Brilliance, The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others.”  You can hear him talk about it in a terrific interview by Reena Jana, Innovation Department Editor for BusinessWeek (also read her review).  Jana asks Murray, former head of innovation for Intuit, about “copying” ideas and Murray explains, “It’s about the fine line between plagiarism and innovation…In the book I talk about how you define a problem and then you go out and look for places with a similar problem and borrow ideas from there.”  He describes how Biologist Charles Darwin borrowed from geology, and later economics, to come up with his best ideas.  Another example is Google, which used libraries and researchers as models when developing its online search tool.There are so many sources of inspiration: nature, other industries, history.  Borrow from the best and add your own twist.  After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?  What do you think?

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News Splash Interview: Discovering Inspiration All Around You

Saturday, 5 September 2009 08:48 by kpotvin

 

Photo Credit: Constance Koons

This News Splash interview is with Patricia Fargnoli, former Poet Laureate of New Hampshire and author of six collections of poetry including her just-released book, Then, Something (Tupelo Press). I had the pleasure of working with Pat on a statewide initiative she created during her Poet Laureate tenure that celebrated children’s poetry.  As she talks about her creative process, I see many lessons for business people such as “letting go” to conjure innovation, discovering inspiration all around you, about the hard work of honing a good idea until it is ready for prime time, about the importance of feedback and more.  Read on and be inspired!   And, for anyone local, stop by and hear Pat read from her new book at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, on Thursday, Sept. 10, at 6:30pm as part of the Hyla Brook Reading Series.    

News Splash (NS):  When we worked together for the statewide Children's Poetry in the Libraries program, you were anything but a stereotypical lost-in-the-clouds artist.  You are an amazing project manager:  very strategic and organized while rallying a big volunteer work force.  Are these traits that help you approach your creative side as well?

Pat:  Thank you, Kyle.  That project was such a joy to work with you on!  One of the things that made it so much fun was that I got to use some long dormant skills of mine that I acquired in my first years as a social worker when I administered a YWCA program for young women in trouble with the law…and later when I worked as the supervisor of a team of technical workers at Aetna Insurance Company. 

But strangely…or perhaps not…I am utterly unorganized and “lost-in-the-clouds” when it comes to writing poetry.  I write best when I can let go of the need to control the words and the direction of the poem, and try to get into a kind of “loose-mind” state and just write.  I think, for any artist, there are three kinds of “work.”  One is the creative part where you try to access the deeper (perhaps subconscious or dreamlike) parts of yourself.  Or where you try to “see” a thing (a mountain, for instance, a deer, a city, etc.) in a way it's never been seen before and then give it a new language.  Or where you try to give a language to a feeling or thought that seems to be almost beyond words.

The second kind of “work” is revision when the conscious mind with all its knowledge of craft and technical skill steps in and begins shaping the piece, much the way the sculptor chisels the marble to find the shape within.  The third “work” is the business of poetry…knowing the potential markets, writing cover letters, networking, getting poems sent out. 
My “business skills” of course come most into play with the third “work”  but also with the second kind where one has to know the tools, believe in oneself and ones art, be motivated to work hard and stick to it.

NS:   I've always been fascinated by how many poets come from a business-type background.  You are a retired therapist, Dana Gioia was an executive at General Foods, Wallace Stevens was at Aetna, T.S. Eliot spent several years at Lloyd's Bank of London.  Why do you think this is?

Pat:
  Hmmm.  These days far more poets come from academic jobs, primarily as teachers in the colleges and MFA programs.  In general, poets from the business world have to work harder and be luckier to be successful.  The hard fact is that being a poet doesn't pay and all poets need a “day job.”  Those with corporate jobs in general are better off financially than those who teach.  I have, recently, seen a fair number of poets emerge from the medical professions. William Carlos Williams was a doctor, Courtney Davis has edited an anthology of poems by nurses, C. Dale Young, the editor of the New England Review, is a doctor.  I guess the bottom line is that poets can spring from anywhere and work at any job at all to sustain themselves.  But regardless, all of us share a love of the language and the desire to express our vision of the world.

NS:  Why is poetry important? 

Pat:  Because it constantly redefines reality and expands our understanding of the worlds...both those we live in and those beyond us.  Because it translates the unsayable into language.  Because it connects us to the creative spirit in the universe.  Because it informs us about and connects us to our common humanity...in all its beauty, flaws and frailty.  Because it is a source of joy.

NS:  Tell me about your creative process.

Pat: I read a great deal of poetry by other poets, not only for enjoyment (though that is key) but because it both inspires my own, and teaches me techniques and strategies I didn't know before.  Often I read poems to start my writing day.  Then I either sit down with a pad, or sit before the computer, and begin with whatever is on my mind or happening right outside my window, or right in front of me (once I wrote a poem about a bug that was sitting on my computer).

I usually just try to keep writing without worrying very much about whether it's a poem or not (nevermind a good one).  A friend calls this the “garbage page.”  Later I type it up or print it out and start cutting and shaping.  After that, I put it away a few days, then revise some more and when I've got the poem as far as I can take it, I'll show someone (usually people in one of my workshops) and ask for feedback.  Then more revision.  Often a poem will take months, even years before I feel it's done.

But there are other ways poems come into being too.  Perhaps I'll see a bunch of words or a magazine article or something that intrigues me.  Or some event will happen and I'll rush home and write about it;  or I'll be driving and see something I don't want to lose and so I'll write it down on a napkin or something on the steering wheel (which I don't recommend).

NS:  Do you have any tips for business people who want to more fully tap into their creative side?

Pat: The famous German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo” says that once you have seen the power of art “you must change your life.”   I agree.  Making a space for poetry in my life has totally changed my life and given me a wealth of friendships and immeasurable happiness.  It is indeed possible to combine a business life and a creative life.  One simply needs to shift priorities enough to create the space/time for making art in one's life.  There is a wonderful book/workbook called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron that lays out a complete plan for making that happen.  I was once in a workshop group with 30 artists and we worked with that book together. It was life-changing, and I highly recommend it.

NS:  What inspires you?

Pat:  Mountains, ponds, deer, foxes, the color blue, things of the spirit, all things mysterious, the questions for which I have no answers.

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Simple Leadership Lessons from The Senator

Thursday, 3 September 2009 04:20 by kpotvin

In a recent blog post, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good, draws four important leadership lessons from her observations and time with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy:

·         Remember that performance is everything

·         Find a higher purpose

·         Keep going (resilience)

·         Never forget family

The beauty of these four lessons is their simplicity.  Life -- and business -- doesn’t have to be complicated.  I encourage you to read Professor Kanter’s entire piece.

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True Grit

Wednesday, 5 August 2009 08:37 by kpotvin

 

Grit might be one of the most important factors when it comes to success.  Author Jonah Lehrer explores this subject in his terrific article in the "Ideas" section of the Boston Globe.  Lehrer writes that grit is "about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going."  How is your grit quotient?  Measure your grit level here

 

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When Is The Last Time You Surprised Your Customers?

Friday, 31 July 2009 13:49 by kpotvin

Earlier this week, I posted a story from The New York Times about new research showing that Americans appreciate free stuff, like a surprise cup of coffee.

Well, yesterday, I got surprise brownies (last post about brownies for awhile, I promise) and they made my day.  The package came from one of my favorite places:  Dancing Deer Baking Company as a thank you for filling out a survey for them.  Now I am a long-time admirer and customer of Dancing Deer.  Not only do they offer delicious all-natural goodies but they know how to build a brand.  I love their products, philanthropy and personality so when the recent survey came across my desk, I was happy to oblige for no other reason than that I want to see them prosper.

They didn’t have to do a thing as follow up.  In fact, I forgot I even filled out the survey.  Yet they used this simple gesture to solidify a relationship with a good customer.  Thanks Sarah Nichols and all The Deers for a sweet treat!

What are surprising ways that you can share the love with your customers? 

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Metaphors for Business

Wednesday, 22 July 2009 10:15 by kpotvin

Here are two recent examples of how using seemingly unrelated subjects like bike riding or card playing can effectively convey valuable business lessons.First, read this interview with Annie Duke, professional poker player recently seen on The Celebrity Apprentice.  She speaks with USA Today management reporter Del Jones about parallels between playing poker and conducting business.  Think bluffing, negotiation, perceptions, risk and more.

Second, best-selling author Seth Godin writes about business lessons learned from riding a bike.  He says, “It’s very difficult to improve your performance on the downhills.”  He uses this as an effective metaphor for why tough times (difficult circumstances, the unexpected, poor economy) often provide the most significant opportunities.

Trying to convey a business lesson or philosophy to employees, customers or others?  Use a metaphor.

 

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