Let the Ideas In


Many corporate offices these days are starting to have a somewhat cloned appearance of the CIA, MI6, ASIO, and most other intelligence organizations, with all the security gadgets located throughout their buildings. This is evident by the increasing visibility of security cameras, sensor movement measuring devices, electronic swipe cards and other items that may have been derived from a James Bond 007 movie!

These security measures are very successful at keeping unwanted people out, and those valued people in, together with protecting the businesses intellectual property and other strategic assets. This security focus also permeates into the organization’s hierarchy and culture where only a limited number of vetted employees are allowed to represent the business in the external world to ensure consistency of message.

A major consequence of these established corporate fortresses is that many new ideas, creativity and innovations are also blocked from entering the organization. Many companies utilise a limited number of gatekeepers to filter and disseminate information inputs into the organization thereby ensuring a consistent methodology to evaluate potential opportunities in accordance with well established, and approved, corporate guidelines. However, this can result in stifling innovation and in restricting the highly needed creative thought that is essential to the longer-term and ongoing success of the organization.

The solution is for organizations to have a broad network of “idea collection systems” in place to seek out, identify and gather new thoughts that can analysed further to better understand current and future consumer trends and market requirements. The key is to allow many employees in the corporate structure, not just the chosen few, to have the opportunity to source these ideas without the use of the approved corporate filtering and distillation processes, otherwise this will again lead to a narrow view of potential innovation opportunities.

These “idea collection systems” do not need to be extremely ornate, sophisticated or expensive, but can be achieved via allowing people from a broad cross-section of the organization access to a variety of external information stimuli that they would not normally have exposure to via their traditional job roles. Examples of these “idea collection systems” could be; magazine subscriptions (HBR, The New Yorker, Food and Wine, MAD Magazine, Top Gear, etc), attending seminars, webinars, workshops, interest groups, factory tours, plays, book reviews, plus many more! The objective is creative diversity with ideas sourced from outside their current “thought zone”.

The vast array of collected ideas should then be pooled into a continually overflowing “idea bucket” from which those versed in the identification of potentially new ideas and products review on a regular basis. With time, I’m sure that this collective of numerous ideas will lead to many commercially new and innovative products being developed to provide future long-term benefit and financial sustenance to the corporate organization.

The corporate goal should be to have many employee “ears and eyes” constantly seeking new thoughts to add to the “idea collection systems”. But to do this, the corporate organization needs to be bold, to listen, and to “Let the Ideas In”!


The Novel Process of “Bookovation”

llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam - HDR

When walking into a bookstore you are immediately greeted with a vast array of books strategically positioned on the bookshelves with their spines pointing out at you saying “come closer and have a look at me”!

As a way of encouraging you to clasp your eyes upon them, each book is ordained with its own distinct marketing appeal that is a complex blend of colours and words to entice the potential book buyer. I must admit, I am one those people who does judge a book by its cover so first impressions in this instance do indeed count.

Once tempted by a specific book, you gently slide the chosen article from the shelves and study the outer cover and artwork more closely to further justify your initial selection. At this stage, you have not yet opened the book and do not know what the story could be about, but you are already speculating in your mind various story permutations and plot combinations. If all goes to plan from the publisher’s perspective, you will eventually be seduced into reading the blurb and may then personally commit to purchasing the book for a greater analysis of the numerous pages to justify your expenditure.

This process of judging a book by its cover got me thinking about with the generation of ideas in the corporate office.

What if each employee was given a book with the same title (which represented a work problem to be solved), colours, design and branding on the outer cover of the book? The inside of each book would contain blank pages.

Each employee would then be asked to scribe inside their book the thoughts and ideas that came to them on initially viewing the exterior of the book. These thoughts would only be derived from the title and the complementary artwork (just like in the bookstore). The books would then be collected and the contents accumulated into a combined narrative.

The results I’m sure would be most interesting and I suspect would vary greatly in content. But, what a rich and extensive source of innovative ideas this process would generate! Let’s call the process “bookovation” (short for innovation derived from books).

So next time you are in need for some creativity in your business, may I suggest you give “bookovation” a go, I’m sure that the process would generate a lot of intrigue and enjoyment for your employees along the way. It would also make for the establishment of an impressive corporate library of thought!

The Power of a Small Drop

Water Drop


When a towel is placed under a tap where the water is flowing quite quickly, most of the water runs off the towel with minimal absorption. However, if the water velocity from the tap is reduced to a slow and steady drip, the towel now becomes very effective with the water collection as each drop has time to fully permeate into the fabric.

Let’s take this thought and consider its application to the implementation of a new idea or innovative, change application in business, or in our social activities.

If the mindset shift associated with the proposed change is too large, those individuals feeling the full force of the change action may not absorb it so it could be lost and have minimal or no impact. The key for success is to slowly drip feed the idea to allow the desired effect to slowly permeate into the organization (or individuals) to which it has been aimed.

However, in some circumstances where efforts to implement change continually encounter strong resistance, sometimes there is the need to use a water canon to blast the change through with maximum force! But this course of action tends to obliterate the “towel” and may not achieve the required result. There are also usually a lot of puddles to clean up afterwards which may require a larger number of fresh towels!

So for your next “change introduction” may I suggest you adopt the steady and slow drip and you will obtain a nice wet and saturated towel!


The Thought of Antiquities

Antique shop window - Lillie Road

I must admit, I am not a fan of the whole shopping experience. When I need to purchase an item, I go straight to the target shop, buy the required product, and then quickly make a planned and strategically executed escape out the nearest exit!

However, there is one particular shop where this focussed stealth methodology seems to not work for me, that of an Antique Dealer. Here I can happily spend hours fossicking through the vast array of totally unexpected items. In these premises I have no preconceived idea of what to expect, I just meander through the pre-owned range of second-hand inventory gleefully absorbing the visual feast of gadgets, furniture, paintings, knick-knacks and other ornaments. In some instances, I don’t actually purchase anything, but I always leave the shop with numerous ideas of optimistic purchase possibilities that might just be useful for some project when I get home.

On examining my thought further, I willingly enter the Antique Dealer with an open mind, I have no preconceived objectives, except in the exploration of new and potentially exciting objects. On seeing these items, my mind is subconsciously linking these antique items with my existing home objects.

There is an interesting corollary here with the process of generating solutions to specific problems in our private lives or in the corporate world. In many instances we tend to quickly focus on a solution without exploring other options, some of which may take time and patience to develop. Most of us follow the “get-in/get-out” shopping approach that I typically follow, but the better solution is to let your thoughts wander contentedly along with an open mind (ie the “Antique Dealer” approach).

In the corporate world, time pressures and business imperatives tend to cloud our ability to take the “Antique Dealer” approach, but I would suggest this strategy as the outcome will be more beneficial and satisfying to all those involved.

Just a thought that might just be useful in the future?


That “Gaelic Place”

Big Mac

“Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun”.

On reading this sentence, many of you would immediately think of that global hamburger chain identified with the golden arches that I call that “Gaelic Place”.

To many children and adults from all around the world, this is their common perception of a hamburger. But what if we replaced the following ingredients…

Beef patties WITH lamb rissoles?
Special sauce WITH leaves of mint?
Lettuce WITH spinach?
Cheese WITH fetta?
Pickles WITH chutney?
Onions WITH beetroot?
Sesame seed bun WITH Toasted wholemeal bread?

I’m sure that those frequent and loyal eaters at the “Gaelic Place” would not recognise these replacement ingredients when constructed together as a hamburger!?

Let’s just ponder this thought for a moment and expand the discussion a little bit further. Many foods, fashions, music, plus many other items used daily, have become stereotyped by a consistent and standardised formula or delivery methodology. This can also be observed in the corporate workplace where everyone seems to dress in the same work attire, similarly, the offices have that regular format of appearance, funnily enough, very much like the business model used by that “Gaelic Place”?

The same can also be said about the process of innovation where most businesses utilise the same old standard approach of “brainstorming” to try and develop some new ideas.  I have even heard of some brainstorming sessions feasting on a selection of “Gaelic Place” food assortments to assist with the participant’s creative receptivity!

To foster some creativity in the workplace, why not try some new “ingredients”, just like the replacement “WITH” examples provided in the hamburger example above.  Some of these alternative “ingredients” could be:

Standard Work Attire WITH a bow-tie, cravat, kilt, swimming costume?
Corporate Office WITH an external location (the zoo, a picnic ground, railway train, gymnasium)?
Business Co-workers WITH kindergarten children, a choir, actors, artists, the French Foreign Legion?

In summary, there is more than one type of hamburger, the key is to expand your taste-buds with a variety of new ingredients so you continue to think that little bit differently!

Digging for Ideas


In the 1850s here in rural Victoria (Australia) it was a common sight to see many men and women of different nationalities lining the rivers panning for gold. This form of mining was quite slow and tedious, but for the minimal cost of a metal pan, you could dream of landing that allusive large gold nugget and then live that long awaited life of luxury!

Putting aside the emotion of the Victorian Gold rush, let’s focus on the simple process used for the panning for gold:

Environmental Experience:
Not all rivers contain gold. With the right knowledge, experience and an understanding of the surrounding environment, some river locations were deemed to have a greater potential for gold deposits than other less favourable riverbank positions.

Filtering Iterations:
The panning process involved a large number of filtering iterations in which the larger sediments were initially removed, then the medium sized ones, until the miner was eventually left with a fine particle distribution in the bottom of the pan. A small percentage of these iterations yielded some gold, however many resulted in worthless sand deposits that were ultimately discarded.

As time prevailed, the miner’s panning technique improved and the filtering process became streamlined and more efficient.

The miner’s tirelessly repeated the process over and over again slowly accumulating small gold dust particles that with time eventually grew into a sizable and valuable sum of riches.

These gold pan learning’s from the 1850s are still valid today in the 2010s, particularly in the generation of innovative and creative ideas in the corporate office. Rather than unearthing that large gold nugget, here the business objective is to uncover that financially attractive new product or service.

Environmental Experience: In order to have the best chance of success, the organisation should utilise the skills, resources and knowledge contained in a broad cross-section of the business, don’t just rely on a select few employees as you will limit your options for discovery.

Filtering Iterations: The process of brainstorming new ideas will take a number of idea filtering iterations, many of which will be discarded along the way until that “golden thought nugget” is obtained.

Practice: The process of generating new ideas takes practice and repetition, but with time, it will become streamlined and very effective.

Persistence: Don’t worry if you are not successful the first time, keep going and you will eventually discover that prized gem of an idea!

So, may I suggest that you consider your corporate organisation as the river within which many yet undiscovered golden ideas lay buried just below the surface waiting to be unearthed. Your goal is to efficiently mine these ideas and bring them forth utilising the skills and talents that currently exist within your business. Happy digging!

And This Years Winner Is…..Teamwork

That One Day in September

Last weekend here in Melbourne it was the Grand Final of Australian Rules Football competition that involved the clash between two mighty football teams – Hawthorn and Fremantle. On the big day an audience of 100,000+ supporters sat in the famous and historical MCG stadium and cheered loudly as they encouraged their team towards victory with the goal of being the 2013 Premiers. However, only one team can be victorious and this year the winner was Hawthorn.

Prior, during and after the game, it is always interesting to observe the behaviours of the two team’s supporters. Each supporter dresses up in their football team’s club colours, waves team flags and provides “verbal encouragement” to their players, the opposition and particularly the umpires. Although the supporters have allegiance to their individual teams, after the game there is minimal malice and they depart on mass with “friendly” banter amongst their own supporters and those from the opposition team. In this instance, it could be said that the real winner was “football” as the game was a spectacular ending to yet another great football season that was enjoyed by all supporters of the game.

Let’s explore this team concept further in the corporate office. Many organizations are functionally structured into discrete work groups (marketing, sales, HR, production, etc), or business divisions, or via geography (Australia, Denmark, Japan). Over time, these groups tend to develop their own work culture and ethos that crafts and encourages certain good, and some bad behaviours. Unfortunately, this may also lead to an “us” and “them” mentality where one group tries to score points off another work group, just like in the game of football.

However, the key is for these work groups to recognise that there is one larger and more strategic team, that of the total organization. Sure, there can be a work group team credo under the direction of their General Manager (“team captain”), but only if the real winner is the overall business.

In football, it is the umpires role to keep order in the game and to administer and implement the rules to ensure an equal opportunity for all players. Taking this thought further, do we need to establish a band of independent “Behavioural Umpires (BU)” that freely roam the corporate organization calling poor intergroup teamwork with a series of Red, Yellow and Green “behaviour cards” and associated penalties?

For instance, a person given a “Yellow behavioural card” could be placed into a “behavioural sin-bin” for a day where they are forced to watch DVDs of greater teamwork effectiveness? Those awarded a “Red card” may need to spend a day working in the work group they have offended to learn about that team’s ways of “goodness”? However, the “Green card” would reward positive teamwork behaviour and could result in a financial incentive and other forms of recognition. The BU would have a special uniform, complete with a corporate branded whistle, so they are easily recognisable as they wander through the various work teams.

At the end of each financial year, the BUs could get together and have a “best and fairest” award for those employees deemed to have exhibited the optimum in teamwork excellence. There could even be a corporate dinner at a prestigious hotel to celebrate the occasion with a large and impressive trophy presented to the winner by the organization’s CEO.

So may I suggest that work teams never lose sight of the larger organization to ensure that the winner is always the one team, and not the individual!

Just a thought…..


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