How to Boost Your Company’s Creativity and Bottom Line at the

How to Boost Your Company’s Creativity and Bottom Line at the

Driving your employees’ creativity while keeping them productive is an ongoing battle.

Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, offers a solution to the often-vexing problem. He writes in Harvard Business Review about how you can train your employees to be more creative by teaching core creative competencies.

Epstein says that after he trained employees of a small California city, managers reported that they were receiving 55 percent more new ideas. City officials attributed $600,000 in new revenue and $3.5 million in savings to the training.

So what makes this kind of training so effective? From his studies of more than 1,300 managers in 19 countries, Epstein came up with eight core creative competencies you can use with your staff. See below and start training your employees to tap their best ideas.

1. Institute ongoing education and development

You should be constantly training employees in skills that are outside of their expertise and job title. You want versatile professionals who are not confined to a box. Help them expand their knowledge and skill set by offering weekly training sessions on various topics.

2. Record all ideas

You and your employees should keep a daily record of unedited, off-the-cuff ideas. Keep a document open and add to it every day. Do not censor any ideas, within reason. Then each month dig through and see if you can make something out of them.

3. Manage your surroundings

This may sound trivial, but you should surround yourself and your employees with “diverse and novel physical and social stimuli,” Epstein says. The right environment will drive creativity.

4. Seek out challenges

Epstein says you need to give your employees “difficult problems to solve and ambitious goals to reach,” but you also have to help them manage the stress. Deliberately seek hard projects and “manage failure constructively.” Do not yell at your employees for trying and failing. You should help them find the lesson and thank them for trying something new. Eventually, this approach will create a fertile, creative environment where employees are trying new things and creating new business.

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How to Boost Your Company’s Creativity and Bottom Line at the

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Thinking ahead: 5 ways to future-proof your company

Thinking ahead: 5 ways to future-proof your company

This article is part of DBA, a series on Mashable about running a business that features insights from leaders in entrepreneurship, venture capital and management.

When innovating for the future, many people find inspiration in a famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Whether or not Ford actually said these words, the premise is wrong. Ford’s customer base might not have invented automobiles on their own, but they did know they wanted a faster, reliable and more comfortable way to get from point A to point B. They needed Ford to come up with the right solution.

We often talk about innovation solely in the context of bleeding-edge technology, but technology is simply a tool to help you solve your customers’ problems. Future-proofing your company requires putting yourself in the customers’ shoes and building your business around their needs. Here are five tips to prepare your company for the future.

1. Fixate on the problem

Fixate on the problem

Innovation grows from understanding what your customers want to achieve and why. Watch how your customers use your product to determine how you can best solve their problem. If you try to achieve this outcome, you’ll move away from developing features for the sake of adding bells and whistles.

For example, Apple’s click-wheel interface on the first iPod solved a problem for its users by giving them a way to quickly and easily navigate hundreds of files on a small screen. Apply this outcome orientation to your strategy by observing, listening and soliciting customer feedback.

2. Think beyond your core product

We live in a service economy in which companies have transcended selling products; they’re now selling experiences.

Think about how you can add value to your customers and help them achieve their desired outcome through the holistic experience you provide.

For example, Hilton Hotels recently revamped its HHonors app, so customers can choose a hotel, preview their room and book a stay via the mobile app. When they arrive at the hotel, they bypass the check-in counter and seamlessly enter their hotel room using near-field communication (NFC) on their smartphones. Hilton Hotels is differentiating its brand in a crowded industry and giving its customers more control to personalize their hotel stay

3. Build in an open way

Build in an open way

New products or features don’t always work the way customers want them to. Even if it meets your customers’ needs today, those needs and pain-points will likely change over time.

When it comes to software companies in particular, it’s important to build technology that’s flexible and doesn’t paint your customers into a corner. Make sure your product can integrate with other existing solutions as well as those that might emerge in the future. Your technology should always be able to evolve along with your customers and their needs.

4. Stay plugged into the market

Whether you’re just getting started in your industry or you’ve been involved in it for decades, it’s important to stay immersed in your market. Stay in touch with other entrepreneurs, follow your competitors and use social media to follow influencers in your space.

Beware of the “Founder’s Dilemma”– don’t get caught up in wealth or control. Stay connected to what’s happening in your industry and commit to delighting your customers.

Engage with partners to learn more about your customers and how they’re using technology. Ask questions and crowdsource ideas. There’s still no substitute for in-person interactions, so attend events and meet with your customers face-to-face. They’ll appreciate the face time and you’ll gain further insights into how best to serve them.

5. Inspire employees to innovate

Everyone has good ideas about how to expand a product and innovate. The leaders at future-proof companies understand that a strong company culture helps surface these ideas and spur innovation. Build a culture that aligns employees around a strong mission, values clear communication and encourages people to pursue their creative ideas. Set aside time for experimentation and empower employees to get involved in projects and jobs outside of their typical role.

Don’t focus all of your time, energy or resources on a single strategy for future-proofing. Instead, divide your energy between these three activities:

  • Listening: Fulfilling customers’ requests for certain features and improving your product
  • Connecting: Understand the market and your competitors
  • Experimenting: Looking ahead at opportunities for the products and services your customers don’t yet know they need

Balancing these three things (paying attention to your customers, keeping your pulse on the market and innovating ahead of the market) will prepare your company for tomorrow and the years ahead. As you work to do so, however, don’t lose sight of your mission to create better outcomes for your customers.

Your customers are both the problem and solution when it comes to future-proofing your company. Technology is the screwdriver that will help you get there.

Mashable

 

Thinking ahead: 5 ways to future-proof your company

Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days

Practically every company innovates. But few do so in an orderly, reliable way. In far too many organizations, the big breakthroughs happen despite the company. Successful innovations typically follow invisible development paths and require acts of individual heroism or a heavy dose of serendipity. Successive efforts to jump-start innovation through, say, hack-a-thons, cash prizes for inventive concepts, and on-again, off-again task forces frequently prove fruitless. Great ideas remain captive in the heads of employees, innovation initiatives take way too long, and the ideas that are developed are not necessarily the best efforts or the best fit with strategic priorities.

Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days.

10 Ways to Build a Profitable Company

What goes into building a globally recognized company? Teamwork, commitment and humor are not enough.

  • It takes a team
  • Be decisive
  • Be patient, and tenacious
  • Be fully committed
  • Don’t be afraid to promote yourself and your company
  • Be mildly provocative
  • Empower junior staff
  • Get out a lot
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Be proud and share it

10 Ways to Build a Profitable Company | Inc.com.

The Golden Rules For Creating Thoughtful Thought Leadership

Thought leadership isn’t just for individuals. Here’s how your business can use thought leadership to shape people’s perception of your company and its products – the right way.

The Golden Rules For Creating Thoughtful Thought Leadership.

Top 100 Crowdfunded Companies

Crowdfunding is more than just the latest trend — it’s an increasingly effective way to jumpstart a business with much needed cash.

Top 100 Crowdfunded Companies | Entrepreneur.com.

 

How Much Is Your Company Worth?

How much is my business worth? It’s a question every entrepreneur, founder and business owner asks themselves. Every business leader ought to develop and maintain a good understanding of their business’ market value.

How Much Is Your Company Worth? | Inc.com.