June 26, 2013

5 Keys to Creating an Innovative Company

Guest Post by Charles Lee

Innovation is essential to the success of any company in our world today. Given the speed of evolution in most markets, companies that don’t innovate will soon find themselves in decline or even obsolete.
Innovative companies work hard to bring clarity to real problems and design practical solutions for implementation. Many of these companies are exerting a lot of energy and resources towards creating an innovative company versus simply launching innovative projects. Here are some commonly adopted keys to creating an innovative company:

    1. Innovation Starts with Vision – The topic of innovation must have a seat at the executive table. It should be a regular point of conversation and integrated fully into the overall narrative of a company. Whether it is a C-Level executive vision casting or a manager speaking to a direct-report during a review, the story of innovation must be integrated into the vision of the company. Team members at every level should be able to point to actual stories within the company that highlight this vision for innovation.

    2. Innovation Scales with Culture – The natural outflow of vision should be the development of culture. While it’s tempting to just focus on the short-term ROI found in growth or value-adding products/services for customers, innovation flourishes when there’s a commitment to developing company culture or environment. In the long run, a great culture creates more energy for a company, long-term growth, and retains more talent. People aren’t usually leaving companies because of a lack of new innovation projects. It’s often an issue of culture.

    3. Innovation Welcomes a New Kind of Thinking – Traditional thinking tells us to do what we know. How do we know what to do? Look to the past. This kind of thinking does not lead to more innovation. Innovative thinking adds another layer that allows people to diverge from what the past tells them. Divergent thinking takes what we know and then explores what could be. The past alone does not dictate what the future could be in this model.
    4. Innovation Embraces Processes & Metrics – Innovation is not just feel good idea-making. Innovative companies embrace processes and metrics. Refining how a company gets innovative ideas to implementation is a constant area of focus for these companies. Developing metrics for how innovation gets injected into a company, how it is measured in-process, and what are expected as outcomes collective provide guidance for the innovation process. Innovative companies don’t shy away from creating and refining processes and metrics.

    5. Innovation Needs Space for We & Me – Innovative companies allow for both individual times for employees to innovative as well as collective times. These times are often integrated into the rhythm on one’s work week. Also, these companies encourage the cross-pollination of inter-departmental expertise to spark new ideas and opportunities. There appears to be a growth in the number of idea-competitions, innovation think-tanks, and innovation centers on the rise.

      Innovation is no longer optional in our new world. What will you do to help your company innovate?

      June 19, 2013

      Turning a Weakness into a Strength

      During an interview, how do you answer the question, "What is your biggest weakness?"

      It sounds like a setup, but it doesn't need to be...here's how to flip it:

      Turn your perceived weakness into a strength
      Here's my personal example: "I'm impatient.

      "I prefer to move fast, so it frustrates me when I work with others who hold me up. I like to make progress, so when I feel like those I'm working with aren't as committed to winning as I am, I start to do more. I understand not everyone is going to see things the way I do, but I'm very driven to achieve quickly."

      See what I did there? I took a "weakness" and made it sound like an admirable strength. This nice thing is you can prepare for it. This type of answer can be used in most situations. Beneath it all, the interviewer wants to know if you have the confidence to get the job done. Your employer can teach you the skills needed, but your tenacity towards completing the task is innate. 

      My advice to you is when you're asked this question, don't cower under it, be prepared and attack it! 

      June 12, 2013

      Your World is Made of Stories

      Guest Post by Josh Allan Dykstra

      The world we see is dictated by the stories we’ve told ourselves about the world.

      • The stories we tell ourselves about people of other faiths

      • The stories we tell ourselves about where human beings came from

      • The stories North Korean leaders tell its citizens about the outside world

      • The stories we tell ourselves about gay people

      • The stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be successful

      • The stories we tell ourselves about Republicans

      • The stories we tell ourselves about Democrats

      • The stories we tell ourselves about how we manage our own strengths and weaknesses

      • The stories we tell our kids about how to “get a job”

      There’s a stark difference between facts and stories, after all.

      When someone doesn’t call you back when they say they would, that’s the fact: They didn’t call you back when they say they would.

      The story, however, is what we tell ourselves about that fact.

      “Oh, they’re pissed at me.”

      “I must have done something to annoy them.”

      “They’re so disorganized and irresponsible.”

      These are stories.

      For all we know, they got in a fender bender and had to speak with the police, or their kid got sick at school and they had to go pick them up.

      Our worlds are made up of stories — some big, some small — and they define the world around us.

      In our day-to-day life, the way we feel about the items on the above list are more constructed from stories than from facts. The majority of the hatred and destruction we see on the news is born out of a terrible, tragic story that people have been convinced is a fact. (Likewise, the joy and beauty around us comes from stories, too — they are just very different ones.)

      I think it would be great if we could spend more time pondering the stories we tell ourselves — and we should certainly learn to have more respect for the power these stories wield over the way we live our lives.

      June 5, 2013

      Hate Losing

      If you ask someone who is extremely competitive whether they love winning or hate losing, they'll answer, "I hate losing."

      Most believe the obvious answer would be, "I love winning," but let's dig into the process behind personal drive.
      Who doesn't love winning? The problem is you can't win all the time. If you get accustomed to winning, you expect it. You stop working hard. Your focus is on your past success, therefore you're susceptible to complacency. That's when someone is ready to knock you off your throne.

      Take for example elite athletes. They train harder after a painful defeat. They remember how bad it feels to lose so they never want to experience that again

      Competitive companies such as: Google, Zappos and Nike never stop innovating. They're not satisfied being #1, they desire more. Even during their current success, they're planning ahead for future domination.

      I learned the hard way with my first business. I had idealistic goals and dreamed about achieving them. When I came up short, I stopped trying as hard. This time around I'm realistic about what needs to get done. Even when there's good news, I know something could happen that can ruin it. It may sound like you'll never be satisfied, but it's more about always working hard to elude failure.

      So the next time you have a goal in mind, don't daydream about winning, be driven by hating to lose.