Month: February 2016

How to Become Innovative

If the world poverty fact is that nearly half of the world’s population is living on less than $2.50 a day, it is therefore a big opportunity for you and me to think not only harder but also smarter in terms of being innovative.

To be innovative is the ability to translate an idea into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. One can therefore be able to kick poverty out of his life if he can put the very many ideas that are in his mind into reality. In the end, these will be goods and services that the customers can pay him for.

Innovation does not just happen but it comes after someone has taken an initiative to do so. This therefore means that someone has to task himself to research on the problems of the people around him and find a way to solve them.

One can follow the 15 simple steps below to learn how to solve people’s problems through innovation;

1. Think about an easy thing you can do in a short period of time especially those things that have already been innovated

2. Research about it by reading books, using the internet and every other article that you come across concerning that idea

3. Take time and think about how you can do it by visualizing it in your mind

4. Get a paper and a pen and start drawing what you have visualized in your mind

5. Write out the requirements you need to do it

6. Find out if the requirements are available on the market

7. If they are not available try to think of a way you can improvise

8. Look for space where to do your work from

9. Start assembling your idea from the paper using a reference from that which has already been done some where

10. Test and see if it can work

11. If it fails up to the 99th time, the 100th will be your success

12. Call someone to assess the efficiency and quality of your work

13. Let him or her compare it with a product that is already on the market

14. Then go back to the drawing board and think again about your original idea and how to improve it

15. Last but not least follow the steps above once again in your pursuit for improvement

How To Manage The Freedom To Fail In Innovation

Innovation is messy, sticky and unruly. It’s not law-abiding, and comes in fits and starts. One thing it absolutely isn’t is perfect and systematic.

And that’s why it tends to die in corporate entities. Efficiency Hitlers want perfect results that lead to immediate returns. Their employees tend to fear them and aim to display ‘perfect’ behaviour. That’s a recipe for the death of innovation.

Ideas don’t thrive in fear-driven, risk-averse environments. And it turns out, the freedom to struggle is crucial to innovation.

In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle quotes a study conducted on two groups of students. The first group took a test, and were given the feedback that they were extremely smart. The second group took the same test and were told that they had clearly worked extremely hard and tried their best.

The two groups were then given the choice of two more tests that they could take. The first test was very easy, the second much more difficult. The students who had been praised for being intelligent overwhelmingly chose to do the easy test. Why? Because they now felt that they had to uphold and defend the perception of being smart. The second group overwhelmingly chose the harder test because they wanted to show off how much they were willing to try.

When developing innovators, our emphasis should be upon how they are prepared struggle, their willingness to try hard. We should glorify the struggle, and not perfect results.

Start by telling everyone

Don’t force your innovators to surprise the efficiency Hitlers. And don’t force your efficiency Hitlers to be surprised by your innovators. Tell both groups what’s going on and what compromises will be required from both.

Usually the efficiency Hitlers will need to free up resources to help the innovators and usually they will not like this notion. So, popularise the idea that their efficiency and optimisation efforts are valued and needed, but in instalments. They need to optimise what’s happening now. Then they should get ready for everything to change, at which point they will be needed to optimise the new thing. They are not permitted to get in the way of the new thing to keep the old thing perfect- making perfect canoes at the expense of inventing the speedboat does nobody any good.

Reward behaviours, not results

The oldest tragedy in the corporate storybook is the person who was punished for trying. As a leader of an innovator, you have to treat the innovator differently from your other staff. You cannot hold them accountable for profitable results only. Leaders often face an emotional vacuum, asking themselves, ‘If I can’t hold people accountable for results, does that mean they are not accountable at all?’

No, that’s not the case. They absolutely must be held accountable. Hold them accountable for the excellence of their experiments.

Like any scientist conducting an experiment, they should formulate hypotheses, test them in real-world scenarios, analyse the results and reach conclusions. They must learn from these conclusions, then move on to the next test, swiftly and with systematic discipline.

Monitor how actively they test their ideas. How much new information are they gleaning from their experiments? What have they discovered about customer likes and dislikes, about opportunities and possibilities, as a result of their trials? These are the standards by which you should measure their performance.

To sit on a beanbag all day smoking a bong is not innovative behaviour. Formulating ideas and testing them in real scenarios, learning and moving forward as a result- that is. Hold people accountable for the quality of their experiments and the amount of new information they discover as a result. The faster and more thoroughly they generate useful, high-quality knowledge, the faster you move towards profitability.

Let your people know how they might fail – what kind of parameters they may act within. Give them boundaries and listen to them if they need the boundaries justifiably extended. Praise them when they try. Always affirm the struggle.

The wrong way to think about it: Innovation will figure itself out in my company.

The right way to think about it: I must clearly communicate the different, but complementary goals to everyone because this will create space for innovation.

Secrets of a Happy Startup Workplace

Startups across the country are known for their work cultures. But, what does it take for a startup to be a happy one? Well, if motivation was the only thing required, would promising employees be shuttling jobs so often? Maybe Not. It is often believed that work culture is established as soon as you have hired your team. They, in the early stages develop the startup culture. Dane Atkinson, CEO, Sumall states, “Your team should form its DNA early.” Is culture the only aspect that decides if a startup is a happy workplace or not? The answer is NO. There are several Human Resources secrets behind it too.

Here are 3 secrets of a Happy Startup Workplace

1. Flexible Working Hours

This should no longer considered a fantasy but it is a booming reality. Startups often make their employees burn the midnight oil. Why not compensate, by allowing them to walk in late at work too? The probability of expecting employees to work till 9 PM and asking them to report again at 10 AM seems too harsh doesn’t it? Flexible work hours make employees feel that the organization cares about them and does not want to overwork and underpay them. Believe it or not, long working hours has been one of the most common reasons why employees quit startups.

Cali Ressler, co-creator of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), says “companies need to hold employees accountable for results not face time.” In simpler terms, longer hours does not necessarily mean more work. Offering flexible hours helps boost productivity.

2. Pamper Employees with non – work perks

How many of you have heard employees being sent on reward vacations abroad? It is a common practice among established MNC’s to send goal achievers on trips, why can’t startups do the same? Some startups, have adopted this and it truly serves as a great motivational factor to make employees stick around and work hard.

Other non-work perks include taking employees for retreats and getaways once every 6 months or a year, offering incentives like Sodexo coupons, memberships for gyms and clubs, exclusive holiday destination packages for their families, work picnics with families and so on. This kind of pampering shows care and concern and makes employees feel that they are working for the right organization.

3. Have a transparent approach

Most employees in today’s era want to know greater detail about the business. By greater detail, we mean finances and critical decisions. Transparency is the key and an organization, which is honest about its business in terms of monies with their employees helps workers invest themselves more. They feel more responsible towards achieving profits for the organization. A workplace where everyone is aware about the success is a happy workplace. When making profits, employees take lots of pride in the success, when making losses, employees find themselves responsible and hence work harder. Either way, it is a win – win situation for an entrepreneur.

Great Leaders Teach

I was at a client’s office late afternoon last week. I was waiting for the Chairman long enough to strike a conversation with one of the managers, whom happened to be the Human Resource Manager. She is leading the organization’s academy and we exchanged smiles – and we talk. Replying to her question, I said my coaching is targeted to top talent – making top talents even better and hopefully they stay longer. Besides, my leadership program for managers and leaders is to enable them learn how to teach.

She shared her stories of going through a particular coaching program, NLP programs, EQ and so on. She is a very prolific manager and hungry for new knowledge. She is quick to share her coaching experiences with talents around her but except these talents are not internal but external to her organization. According to her it is not possible to share her knowledge internally because no one would appreciate – she hasn’t tried yet. She hasn’t got over the feeling yet to drive the coaching initiative for her organization. She doesn’t know where to start. What a waste.

Large organizations are endowed with this wealth of experienced managers and leaders at all areas. They are groomed from ground up (most of them), defended the organizations through thick and thin and possess deep knowledge of the organization trade secrets. Unfortunately they don’t have the platform to showcase and transfer this latent and tacit knowledge embedded in them for years. So much knowledge sedimented in the same body and brain for years. These are not top leaders and senior management that may come and go – I am referring to prolific managers and leaders that are on the ground; servicing the customers and take the brickbats from their direct reports. We must do something.

One of the ways to scoop out this deep seated knowledge is through making these managers and leaders learn how to teach. This “teaching approach” has been used by General Electric, PepsiCo, Southwest Airline, Home Depot, Cisco, DARPA and many global organizations. Just look at yourself, someone must have taught you well. So it worked! Hence, we need to make our organizations teach and learn from each other. Best if the top management learn how to teach their experiences and the rest will ultimately follow.

You can start by getting the managers and leaders go deep down themselves to truly understand what is it they are very good at. This is call Teachable Point Of View (TPOV). Jack Welch (former CEO of GE) in his own words said, “As a great leader, you need to have teachable point of view.” TPOV helps managers to focus on their ultimate strengths and dissect them into learning curriculum. Say for example a Marketing Manager may be good at product launching. So he will create his TPOV based on product launching. He will gather all his experiences related to product launch (its successes and failures) and organize it to match his organization needs – and the best part he is doing this to teach his engineering department about product launching! This applies to all other managers and leaders from various department.