Tag Archives: Innovation

What Will the Farm of the Future Look Like?

What Will the Farm of the Future Look Like?

As the innovation keynote speaker last week for the Utah Farm Bureau Leadership Conference I realized the agriculture industry is in the midst of quite a bit of disruption. But it hasn’t always been that way. For almost a thousand years, innovation in agriculture never changed. Farmers from Julius Caesar’s day basically used the same tools that George Washington used.

 

But all industries will eventually be disrupted, and agriculture is no different. You could say that the first disruption in the industry happened in 10,000 BC when we transitioned from being hunter-gatherers to putting down roots in stationary farming.

 

Disruption in agriculture happened again in the 18th century when farmers developed one of the most important innovations, which was crop rotation.  It greatly increased crop yields by improving soil performance.

 

Crop rotation was a new, innovative business model for that time period. Selective breeding was also an innovative business model during that time. It was a system of mating two animals with desirable characteristics.

 

Three important agricultural inventions were the plough, seed drill, and threshing machine. The plough was already around, but became more advanced. The seed drill measured and positioned seeds in the correct distances and in the correct depth. Though invented by the Chinese in the 2nd century BC, it was improved upon in the 16th and 17th centuries. The threshing machine removed seeds from stalks and husks.

 

As a kid I worked on our neighbor’s farm and learned early on the connection between the farm and the food I ate. Now there is a movement to educate the public about the farm to table connection as the agriculture industry faces major disruption.

 

One major area of disruption in farming is actually a very old idea that’s making a comeback – hydroponics and aquaponics. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water instead of soil.

 

Aquaponics is a system that combines conventional aquaculture – raising aquatic animals such as snails or fish in tanks, with hydroponics – growing plants in minimal water.

 

One of the biggest challenges for the rural farmer is in shipping costs to get their goods from the farm to the cities. Urban farms are starting to pop up in big cities where they can use vertical farming and hydro and aquaponics.

 

As self-driving vehicles and drones improve, I can see the competitive advantage changing for rural farmers as the cost to ship their goods goes down, but real estate in big cities doesn’t.

 

The old hard copy of the Farmer’s Almanac is being replaced with high tech data that monitors weather patterns.

 

As I watched the series “The American Farm” I noticed something that will definitely change how farmers run their businesses. The farmer was under a strict deadline to make sure all of his cotton was harvested before the storm hit. They worked all day and through the night and just barely finished first thing in the morning before the rain started.

 

With self-driving vehicles, that will all change. Having equipment that runs itself frees up a lot of time so that farmers can do other things. On a farm there’s never a lack of work to do and robots are starting to fill labor shortages.

 

The Swiss company EcoRobotics has developed a weed killing, solar-powered robot that can work up to 12 hours a day. It uses 20 times less herbicides and doesn’t harm the crops. Blue River Technology has developed AI which also kills weeds, and uses advanced technology to determine the difference between crops and weeds.

 

With robots doing more of the work in the fields, farmers can focus on diversifying their income. I’ve been hired in the ag industry to teach income diversification based on my book “The Money Garden: How to Plant the Seeds for a Lifetime of Income”.

 

Income diversification doesn’t have to be high tech. Leave that for the robots! In fact, most income diversification is simple and just uses a bit of creativity and innovation.

 

One example is the old fashioned pumpkin patch. On an episode of “The American Farm”, one farming family was facing financial hardship and repayment of a bank loan. It was the simple idea to start a pumpkin patch that saved the day.

 

Rural farms have long been separated by the city, but that is changing. New generations are hungry (no pun intended!) for experiences, and city dwellers are paying good money to have a farm experience. I did it myself when I went to New Zealand years ago. We stayed on a sheep farm and slept in a guest house on the property. The family showed us around the farm and even cooked dinner for us using fresh ingredients they grew or raised themselves. There’s nothing like fresh farm food!

 

Blue Hill at Stone Barns does a great job of bringing city folks out to the rural farm area in Pocantico Hills, New York, located about 30 miles north of New York City. The upscale restaurant operates within the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. There are no menus, and a dinner will run you at least $300 per person. Did I mention that it’s sold out 2 months in advance? Getting to the location from the city isn’t easy or cheap, so they have done a great job of communicating the “farm to table” value of investing the time and money to visit them. And visitors are educated about their food and where it comes from.

 

The American farm will look very different from the one I worked on as a kid. Now cows have their own fitbits, facial recognition to track how much milk they’ve given, and even cow massages.

 

But progress can be good. Since the Industrial Revolution it’s freed up more of our time to do other things. Inventors and innovators are notorious for disrupting industries, and you simply can’t stop progress.

 

All industries will change, but it takes an innovator to use that change as an opportunity. What I’ve realized in speaking to farmers is that they already have that creative and innovative spirit. With the rapid disruption of the agriculture industry, there will also be an enormous amount of opportunity. But things can’t be done the same way they’ve always been done. Innovation and income diversification provide an exciting future for our farmers to be more productive and prosperous!

 

 

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Innovation in Nature – Velcro

Innovation in Nature – Velcro

The inspiration for innovation can come from many places. One of the best places to look is in nature. Nature has been solving its own problems for millions of years and has had plenty of time to work out the bugs and become sustainable.

 

Biomimicry is a science that gets its inspiration from nature’s designs and processes and uses them to help solve problems. The invention of Velcro is an example of a solution that found a problem to solve. It’s proof that one man’s annoyance could be turned into something very valuable.

 

I know the way the Velcro “hook and loop” system works because it’s a valuable piece of my own invention, the wrist water bottle. The Velcro is used on the velstretch wrist band to fit snuggly on the wrist. 

 

Anyone who had been out walking and come home with cockle-burs stuck to their pants could have invented Velcro. But it was a curious man named George de Mestral, who was hunting in the Jura mountains one day with his dog that took the time to inspect the cockle-burs under a microscope to examine how they attached themselves to his pants to solve a fashion problem for the world and make himself rich.

 

Curiosity is one of the top traits all inventors share and George was intensely curious. He wanted to know how the burs were able to stick to his pants and to his dog’s fur so strongly. He discovered the hooks on the plant attach to the threads on your clothing. He decided he wanted to create a hook and loop type of fastener that would be better than a zipper.

 

Like all inventions, his new hook and loop product did not turn out perfectly right out of the gate. It took many tries to get the design perfect. Along the way people would laugh at the idea, which is what also happens to many inventors. But George was patient, and after eight years of trial and error experimentation he finally perfected the hook and loop invention. One side had the hooks and the other had the loops. When you pressed them together they created a strong and durable fastener which is now known as Velcro. A patent was issued in 1955.

 

The next time you’re out in nature, look around you. Mother nature has perfected systems and designs that are just waiting for a curious inventor to discover.

 

 

 

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Innovation in Meetings and Events – Festivalization

Innovation in Meetings and Events – Festivalization

I just got back from Charlotte, North Carolina where I was the innovation keynote speaker for the NC Festival and Event Association’s Showfest 2019. The conference was packed and it was great to see such a fun and receptive crowd. These were people who took copious notes and brought them back to their teams to implement. 

 

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the event industry is expected to increase in the U.S. by 11% between 2016 and 2026. Outlook about the future is positive and 85% of event planners are optimistic about the future. The meetings and events industry has a lot to celebrate! They are riding high!

 

This is why now is the time for meeting and event planners to innovate. I’m usually hired to go into companies, industries and organizations that are being disrupted. They are usually at the point where they’re spiraling down in a sea of change that they can’t get out from under. Don’t give me wrong, there’s never a bad time to innovate, but innovating when you’re on top can keep you from getting to that downward spiral to begin with. This has saved many industries from the brink that people had written off.

 

It’s much better to focus on innovating when things are going well because you have more of what you need, which is resources, talent and time. When a company is down, people tend to want to leave a sinking ship, so you may loose some of your top people and not have the time and money to implement any good ideas you do have.

 

Once people get to the top there is a tendency to rest on their laurels and start thinking that disruption will never happen to them. The outlook is rosy and their bank accounts are too. “We’re invincible and we’re not worried about the future or competition!” This is dangerous thinking, my friend. 

 

All industries, all companies, and all organizations will be disrupted at some point. They will all go through some kind of change. And anything can change your business – technology, customer tastes, competition, government regulations, counterfeiters, the weather, etc.

 

The time to think about innovation is when you’re riding high, so you can stay ahead of the curve and remain flexible when it comes to changing trends.

 

I’m happy to see that one current trend is festivalization – an integration of festival elements into a business event. Even though the festival audience I spoke to were there for solid business takeaways, they integrated it with fun and interactive workshops and general sessions. The audience wanted to be involved and learn in a more tactile way, which is part of the trend of festivalization. The attendees want to be immersed in an experience they will remember.

 

According to CWT Meetings and Events “a wonderful resort in an exotic location is no longer enough- a complete buy-out is becoming critically important for some planners to achieve maximum attendee experience.”

 

It’s known that younger audiences tend to favor experiences over things, but the attendees I met at the festival conference were all ages and were all into the interactive experience. 

 

As an innovation keynote speaker I like to get audience members on stage for improv and involve the rest of the audience in content participation, which is another critical aspect of festivalization. It closes the gap between entertainment and business. When the audience feels like they are more of a participant in the event, they tend to want to share it more, which is good news for meeting planners who want a broader social media reach. 

 

The meetings and events industry is changing. Are you prepared?

 

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Why Associations Need to Innovate

Why Associations Need to Innovate

Associations are a legacy business, like newspapers, and the TV industry. And they have all enjoyed many years of success without being challenged…until now.

 

Early roots of associations could be found in craft guilds, churches, and trading groups. Guilds were formed to protect the interests of merchants and craftsmen. Guilds provided skills training and lobbying, much like you see in associations today.

 

But guilds were disrupted during the Industrial Revolution when they no longer served their purpose. Mass production became more important than making a quality product, and we’ve been going down that road ever since.

 

Like all innovation and disruption, things go in cycles. After the Transcontinental Railroad began linking trade in the East to the West, trade associations sprung up to deal with expanding markets and competition. Associations were back in business and remained unchallenged for decades until the Internet came along.

 

The Internet has disrupted more than one business. Legacy industries like newspapers and associations are especially susceptible to disruption through technology. Thanks to online content and education, and social networking like Linked In and Facebook groups, new potential members may wonder what your association has that is unique and different. That’s where creativity and innovation comes in.

 

All aspects of your association can be innovated, from your memberships to the events you put on, to the content you provide. According to Kellen, the association management group, there are numerous streams of income you can innovate, such as:

 

  • Continuing education
  • Training, workshops
  • Webinars
  • Selling mailing lists
  • Advertising
  • Vendor workshops
  • Sponsorships
  • Vendor programs

 

Today’s associations are being challenged with members who are looking for more value for their membership dues. By giving them something they can’t get anywhere else, you are increasing your value, and will attract more members.

 

I will be the innovation keynote speaker for the .org Innovation Summit. Check out this promo video:

 

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Primitive Creativity and Innovation

Primitive Creativity and Innovation

Creativity and innovation cover such a wide spectrum, it’s hard to say when it all actually started. Since the beginning of mankind we have had a propensity to come up with new ideas, and constantly improve on existing ideas. The need to create is built into our DNA.

 

Some of the most primitive ideas generated by mankind were the controlled use of fire, farming, language, tools, and the wheel. Creativity and innovation were used to create the first tools to hunt animals, farming to grow food, fire to cook the food, and devices to build shelter. But the art that decorated their caves was purely aesthetic. Creativity and innovation continued long after basic needs were met.

 

This didn’t happen overnight, but over thousands of years of evolution. The most dramatic burst of creativity occurred between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago with a sudden increase in brain size, which was favored through natural selection. This brought about an increase in more complex tools and art. It’s possible that a larger brain allowed for more memory capacity or more complicated pattern recognition, which is needed for innovation.

 

As population growth hit a critical mass, creativity and innovation began exploding since more people were generating more ideas and connecting to each other, which also improved the chances of coming up with great ideas. The more ideas you are exposed to from more sources, the more chances you have of combining ideas and improving existing ideas to generate new and innovative ones. Today we would call that crowdsourcing, the practice of engaging the collective wisdom of a group in order to solve problems.

 

Population growth wasn’t the only reason creativity and innovation progressed, but was just one factor, along with social and biological changes.

 

As an inventor who speaks on inventing and innovation, I usually get at least one person who says that everything that could be invented has been invented. That’s not even close to the truth. We haven’t yet scratched the surface of innovation. With the invention of so many devices that keep more people than ever connected and sharing ideas, I predict a new explosion of innovation in the coming years. We can’t even imagine now exactly what the future holds. But it will be interesting.

 

 

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3 Reasons People Resist Change and How to Fix it

3 Reasons People Resist Change and How to Fix it

Change is something that’s going to happen whether you want it to or not. As a business owner, if you wait for change to happen, your competition is going to eat your dust. Getting stuck in the same old tired ideas that aren’t working anymore is a formula for failure.

 

As a keynote speaker and consultant, I’m hired by corporations to encourage their employees to change and think differently. I stand on a stage and cheerlead for them to try something new and break out of their old patterns of thinking.

 

But the truth is that we all resist change, including myself. Patterns become so engrained in our brains that, unless we constantly create new pathways, new connections, new experiences, and new ideas, those neural patterns are doomed to stay stuck in neutral.

 

Are there people who spend their whole life stuck in neutral? Sure. But they will never be innovators. Companies, individuals, countries, communities, and organizations that stay stuck in neutral risk developing brains (and companies) that are deeply embedded in sameness. By using the same neural pathways over and over again, it gets harder and harder to get out of that rut. Kind of like a car that gets stuck in the mud. If you keep your foot on the gas, all you do is dig yourself deeper into that rut. Neural patterns in the brain work the same way.

 

Change is Hard Work

 

So, one reason people resist change is because change is hard work. If you want to grow new neurons and build more connections, you’ll have to work those areas of the brain that are weak. Just like a weak muscle, weak neurons require a lot of work. And not everyone wants to work that hard.

 

This is why I disguise my creativity and innovation “work” as play. When we are playing we get lost in the moment and we’re much more likely to suspend criticism and simply have fun. It becomes easier to try something new and experimental.

 

Fear of Being Different

 

Another reason people resist change is because they fear being different from everyone else. The worst thing I hear from organizations is “that’s the way it’s always been done”. As an outsider I can instantly see when something doesn’t make good common sense. As an outsider I can question those things without fear of retribution. But for those in the organization who have to live with those bad choices every day, sometimes it’s safer just to go along and not rock the boat. It takes courage to buck the trend and stand up for change.

 

Not in Their Best Interest

 

The third reason people resist change is because it doesn’t work in their best interest. If someone is in a good, cushy, high paying job, radical change may not be in their own best interest. Why upset the apple cart and risk losing that sweet gravy train? Again, as a consultant on the outside looking in, it’s baffling the amount of money that’s being wasted on stupid, stuck in the mud decisions.

 

I have a friend who takes over failing companies and turns them around to make them profitable. One of the first things he does is eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse in the company’s budget. He eliminates duplication, like having two vice presidents, both with big salaries. Neither of those people would ever complain or instigate change because it’s not in their best interest.

 

Management can help their employees adjust to change by letting them know what’s going on and being honest about how the change is going to impact them. Also, involving them in the change will help ease them into it and give them permission to speak their minds about it without fear of punishment. Change is not only inevitable, it’s vital for growth.

 

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Valentine’s Day – Innovating Within a Tradition

Valentine’s Day – Innovating Within a Tradition

The basis of innovation is about making a connection that didn’t exist before. But what about innovating within a tradition? The real history of Valentine’s Day isn’t completely clear, but the underlying theme is one of love, fertility, and marriage. Like all holidays, Valentine’s Day, once it became a tradition, has changed very little.

 

Traditions and rituals bind us to others, whether it’s a significant other, a family, a community, or society as a whole. They make us feel comfortable and secure, and take us back to a time in our memory when life was good. Traditions make us feel like we are a part of something bigger.

 

So, since innovation is about change, how do you change something that has been ingrained in our psyche?

 

Take Valentine’s Day. You can’t completely change a holiday. That would be too jarring. But you can change one or two variables and still keep the holiday tradition intact. The trick is to keep most of it anchored in something familiar.

 

Exchanging Valentine cards in the U.S. probably started in the 1700’s, but the first mass produced ones came out in the 1840’s.

 

The first chocolates to be given in a heart-shaped box came from Richard Cadbury, who decorated them himself. The innovative Cadbury company was also the first to sell edible chocolate. Before that it had always been served as a drink.

 

The custom of sending flowers started in the 1800’s. It was a way of communicating non verbally. Since each flower had a specific meaning, you could have a whole conversation using just flowers.

 

Cards, candy and flowers have been a Valentine’s Day tradition for many years. But other items are starting to become associated with the holiday.

 

Here are 3 examples of companies that innovated within a traditional holiday:

 

  • Shari’s Berries – Shari Fitzpatrick, founder of Shari’s Berries, decided to combine her love of strawberries with chocolate. But she didn’t set out to become known as “The Strawberry Lady.” It happened through serendipity. She started out giving dipped strawberry gifts to friends and co-workers. But they became so popular, she thought she might be able to actually turn her passion into a business. Now chocolate covered strawberries are making their place among regular chocolate as a Valentine’s Day favorite.

 

  • Teddy Bears – John Sortino put the giving of teddy bears for Valentine’s Day on the map. His first bears were sold mostly to friends, then he started selling them from a kiosk at an open air market. After a tourist mentioned that they wanted him to ship a bear, he got the idea to sell them online, and they were soon sold during Valentine’s Day as an alternative to candy and flowers.

 

  • Pajamagram – What do pajamas have to do with Valentine’s Day, you ask? Well, women like them. Pajamagram is the sister company of Vermont Teddy Bear, so they seem to have a knack for knowing what women want.

 

If you’re going to come up with an innovation for a holiday tradition, make sure you keep the integrity of the tradition, while coming up with something new.

 

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Innovators Embrace Uncertainty

Innovators Embrace Uncertainty

Uncertainty isn’t a comfortable place. In fact, it triggers a flight or fight response in the amygdala part of the brain. And most people choose flight. But innovators embrace uncertainty because we venture into uncharted territory every day.

 

I was talking to a friend who made the decision to move to another state. She’s lived in the same place, in the same neighborhood, with the same friends, and the same job for 25 years. But after losing the job that seemed so stable, she was thrown a curve ball, and knew she was going to be forced to leave.

 

Most people don’t change unless they are literally forced to. And it usually takes something drastic to make them change. My friend said she is actually glad she lost the job and was forced to move, because otherwise she would have lingered in a bad situation forever. Sound familiar?

 

We are creatures of habit and tend to get into our comfortable routines. This is why ideas get stale. Innovation is all about getting out of those comfortable routines and embracing uncertainty, wherever it takes you. Whether it’s a new invention, new business idea, or to another state. If you want to be innovative, you have to shake things up constantly and willingly jump into the unknown with your mind and heart wide open.

 

When I do an innovation keynote speech, I usually drag people on stage to play some improv games. I have no idea what direction they’ll go in, and neither do they. But some brave volunteers like the challenge of uncertainty. They embrace it and welcome the chance to jump off the cliff.

 

That really is what innovation is about, because you have no idea if your ideas will be good or if anyone will like them. You have no idea if a new idea will sell or not. But you have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

 

I know my friend is anxious about leaving the known for the unknown. But is also excited about the possibilities. That’s it! Instead of fearing the unknown, embrace the possibilities… every day.

 

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How a Bird Inspired a Bullet Train Engineer to Innovate

How a Bird Inspired a Bullet Train Engineer to Innovate

Inspiration for innovation is literally all around us. Mother nature has supplied us with billions of years of natural R&D. If you ever think that everything that could have been invented has been invented, think again. If you only got your inspiration from nature, you’d still have enough material to keep you busy for the rest of your life.

 

When it comes to travel, who knows more about it than birds. The Arctic Tern travels an average of 44,000 miles a year, more than any other migrating bird. And the Bar-tailed Gotwit wins the award for the longest non-stop flight – 7,145 miles from Alaska to New Zealand in nine days. And this is without ever having to stop for water, food, or rest!

 

So, when Japan needed innovation help with their Shinkansen bullet train, they turned to the birds. This train carries more passengers than any other rail line in the world and travels at a speed of over 200 miles an hour. Travelers got a smooth, comfortable and speedy ride, which was mostly very quiet.

 

The one problem it had was the sonic boom that occurred when the train emerged from a tunnel. People complained of getting headaches from the noise that was a result of air being compressed by the speeding train.

 

The solution to the problem came from a savvy engineer, Eiji Nakatsu, who also happened to be a bird watcher. When he analyzed the problem he realized the train was pushing air in front of it, creating a wall of wind. When the train emerged from a tunnel, it put pressure on the train and created a loud booming noise. The solution he was looking for was equivalent to a diver slicing through the water.

 

He found his answer in the Kingfisher bird, who lives in the trees above lakes and rivers. The Kingfisher has a large head and a long, narrow beak shaped like a knife. This enables them to dive from the air into the water without making a lot of noise. Nakatsu took mother nature’s perfect design and integrated it into the design of the high speed trains.

 

The design worked so well, that now, not only are the trains noise compliant, but they’re also 10% faster and 15% more fuel efficient.

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The Value of Incremental Innovation

The Value of Incremental Innovation

A good portion of my day is spent working with small businesses, especially bricks and mortar stores, on how to compete and stay ahead of the curve in a time when change is so rapid. But there is a lot of resistance to being the first to jump off the cliff and try something new.

 

In fact, today I spoke to a small business owner who said they not only would never lead from the front or even behind. They just want to follow from behind and wait until something becomes mainstream to latch on to it.

 

Well, at least he was honest about it. But this is exactly why so many businesses risk becoming irrelevant or losing business to the innovation pioneers who know that in order to stay ahead of the competition you have to take some risks.

 

Risk is scary. But it doesn’t have to be. I try to get companies to at least take baby steps and try incremental innovation. You don’t have to invest a ton of time or money to be innovative.

 

A friend in the food manufacturing business recently told me a story about how they were able to save tens of thousands of dollars every year from a tiny drop of soup. A factory worker noticed that this tiny drop of liquid ending up being wasted because it missed the can on the conveyer belt.

 

One person might have looked at it as just being a nuisance, but this astute worker realized that one tiny drop multiplied hundreds of thousands of times meant lost money.

 

So they brainstormed different ways to change it without having to spend a fortune buying new equipment. By looking at it from multiple directions, they finally figured out that it was as simple as just shaving down one small piece on the machine so the dripping would stop.

 

This small incremental innovation solution saved the company a lot of money and earned a bonus for the worker. It’s these small changes that can be made in all businesses that can add up to improvement in their bottom line.

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Innovation Lessons Companies Can Learn From the Pilgrims

Innovation Lessons Companies Can Learn From the Pilgrims

A pilgrim is someone who makes a long and difficult journey. As an inventor and innovator I have definitely found that journey to be a rough and rocky one, that has never gone as planned, and I’ve learned a lot of innovation lessons along the way.

 

For the 102 pilgrims that sailed from England to their new home in America, their journey didn’t go as planned either. To begin with, they arrived about 150 miles north of their destination and eventually ended up at Plymouth.

 

They faced many hardships, and over half of them wouldn’t survive. But the ones that did used their bootstrapping innovation survival skills to not only survive, but thrive in a foreign land many miles from home.

 

Here are some of the lessons they can teach companies about innovation:

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Maximize Innovation With a Creative Office Space

Maximize Innovation With a Creative Office Space

What do flowers, plants and waterfalls have to do with innovation? A lot, according to an eight month study conducted by Texas A & M University. The study found that offices that included plants, flowers and waterfalls caused women to become more flexible and creative problem solvers and men to generate 15% more ideas.

 

Maybe it’s all that extra oxygen and negative ions in the air or just that flowers and plants make employees happier and more peaceful. Whatever it is, it can’t hurt.

 

A creative space is usually more open and light. There’s room for whiteboards, pushboards, art supplies, and anything else that’s unique to your industry and helps spark creativity.

 

But having a creative office space is more than just aesthetics. It should be a place where employees feel comfortable expressing ideas and being able to brainstorm without being judged. Innovation is all about coming up with ideas. If you want to come up with a great idea, you have to come up with a lot of ideas. And that means most of them are going to be bad.

 

This is why nothing should be criticized in the brainstorming stage. In fact, this is the time that everyone should be encouraged to throw out as many ideas as possible.

 

Ask questions and add on to other’s suggestions. Seek opinions from your fellow co-workers. This builds respect and encourages them to generate even more ideas. Everyone likes to feel that their opinions are worth something.

 

When your ideas are struck down, that’s when people shut down and stop participating. Make it okay to be wrong and fail. As long as you’re allowed to fail there’s no pressure to be perfect, just to keep generating more new and original ideas. Because you never know where a good idea will come from. 

 

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The Innovator Behind “A Christmas Carol”

The Innovator Behind “A Christmas Carol”

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley has withstood the test of time since 1843. The classic novella written by Charles Dickens, cuts to the heart of even the most jaded, and brings a ray of hope that the Christmas “spirit” is alive and well.

 

Dickens drew on his childhood memories living in poverty and incorporated the colorful characters of his neighborhood into his writing. After watching his father end up in debtor’s prison he vowed that would never happen to him. His hard work as a writer coincided with the prosperity and opportunities available during the industrial revolution.

 

Because of the innovations created during the industrial revolution such as the steam powered rotary printing press, and innovations in transportation, writers were able to keep up with consumer demand both in England and abroad.

 

Shortly before Christmas in 1843, Dickens found himself in debt, so he wrote a small book that he hoped would stave off his creditors. But his regular publisher turned the book down. So he took what little money he had left and self-published the book. He then hired an illustrator, oversaw the book cover, and did all of the marketing himself.

 

“A Christmas Carol” turned out to be a huge hit. And since Dickens put his own money into it, he kept 100% of the profits. Besides being an innovator in self-publishing, he invented the concept of publishing in serial form. His novels and novellas were the original soap operas of their day. He used the serial publishing technique to test out new characters and plotlines, based on audience feedback. He knew how to keep them in suspense, and did it with the use of the cliff-hanger.

 

He was also an innovator in sponsorship for writers, putting ads into his novels for brands looking for unique ways to market. His sponsorship ads sold umbrellas, jewelry, glasses, and insect powder.

 

To this day “A Christmas Carol” has never been out of print, and it’s timely message of giving from your heart never goes out of style.

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Does Your Company Have an Innovation Plan?

Does Your Company Have an Innovation Plan?

The innovation industry, like any other industry, is full of buzz words. People like to latch on to the latest academic sounding terms and have lengthy discussions about them. This all sounds impressive, but the bottom line is “what is your company doing about it?” Are you innovating or not? Does your company have an innovation plan?

 

Being in the trenches I can tell you that most companies say they want to be innovative. The truth is that many just talk about it. Because innovation is cool. It’s a buzzword that usually gets thrown around, but rarely implemented.

 

How do I know? Because I like to follow up on companies who have hired me to speak on innovation to see how they’ve followed up. Many times I find that programs haven’t been implemented yet or they are sporadically implemented. Innovation isn’t something you do occasionally. It’s something that should be done on a daily basis. Creativity is a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. You must have an innovation plan and stick to it. You can give someone the innovation tools, but it’s up to them to use them.

 

There have been many studies out in the past few years that talk about how companies think they should be innovating and want to innovate, but aren’t. A recent study from GE states that “60% of respondents say that the inability to generate disruptive ideas is killing their ability to innovate”. Or that “nearly two thirds of executives are convinced that businesses must encourage creative behaviors and disrupt their processes more often”.

 

I like to teach innovation in such a way that anyone from a child to a rocket scientist could understand it. Make it too complicated and you suck all the fun out of it. And then guess what? People will stop wanting to do it.

 

Creativity and innovation should be implemented on a regular basis. If it’s not, it’s just latent innovation. Hey wait! Maybe that’s the new innovation buzzword we’re looking for. And yes, you can quote me on that.

 

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Disruptive Innovation Creates Opportunity

Disruptive Innovation Creates Opportunity

Disruptive innovation is innovation that disrupts an existing market and creates a new one. All industries are subject to change. And people will hang on to the status quo as long as possible. Society in general often feels threatened by the disruption of the status quo. But if you are able to look into the future and roll with it, you will be able to spot and profit from opportunities others will miss.

 

I was watching a segment on self-driving cars and how that will change everything else. For one thing there will be fewer accidents. Which is a good thing. There will be fewer people in the hospital. Which is also a good thing. Fewer patients means less money for hospitals. I’m not debating the ethics of self-driving cars, just saying changes in one industry disrupts another.

 

Since there will be fewer accidents, auto insurance premiums will be lower and insurance companies will be scrambling for business. Some will even go out of business. So, it’s a good thing that premiums will be lower, but bad for the bottom line of auto insurance companies.

 

If self-driving cars never or rarely get into accidents, that means the cars would last much longer. Good for consumers, but bad for the car companies, who would be selling tons of self-driving cars in the beginning, but then people would be keeping them much longer.

 

I can think of some great things that will come out of this disruptive innovation. One is that you would never get lost. And because everything would be skillfully coordinated, there would be far fewer traffic jams.

 

I would love the idea of being able to check email and write blog posts while my Nissan Altima guided me safely to my destination. I’m already thinking of all the movies and TV shows I could catch up on while heading down the 405 freeway.

 

I know it’s easy to be nostalgic and cling to the familiar. But if you want to make money, look into your crystal ball and spot those innovative opportunities while others are still stuck in the present.

 

 

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A Week of Creativity and Innovation

A Week of Creativity and Innovation

Every year fifty countries around the world take one week to celebrate world creativity and innovation week. This takes place between April 15th through April 21st in communities and organizations who want to think differently.

 

World creativity and innovation week was started by several Canadians in 2001 who were shocked by a newspaper headline that Canada was having a creativity crisis and they knew they could do something about it. So they started a creativity movement that caught on around the world.

 

If you ask me I think that there is an ongoing creativity crisis, especially right now. And not just in Canada. I’m not sure if it’s that most people don’t know how to be creative or that the process of what you have to go through to be creative is just way out of most people’s comfort zone.

 

But I do feel like many people are stuck in neutral and need new and innovative ideas to get out of it. Many companies are stuck in neutral without the skills to generate new ideas that might help them become more competitive.

 

World creativity and innovation week is at least starting a dialogue to get more people to realize that people can step outside their comfort zone and do something different, even if it’s just for one week.

 

The thing about creativity is that once you start and find out how much fun it is, you want to keep it going. It’s like a muscle that needs to be used every day or it suffers from atrophy.

 

The world creativity and innovation organization is completely run by volunteers who are interested in connecting people from all over the world to become more creative.

 

If you want to join in the movement set aside the week of April 15th, which happens to be Leonardo di Vinci’s birthday, and do something different. Anything. Creativity starts with one step.

 

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Do Creative People Think Highly of Themselves?

Do Creative People Think Highly of Themselves?

A recent study on creativity showed that people who are highly creative tend to score low on tests of humility and honesty. After spending most of my life in the entertainment industry and being surrounded by creative people, I’ve run into plenty who thought highly of themselves and would score low on honesty. But I’ve also been around plenty of creative people who are also very honest and humble.

 

I would have to say that the ones that are still humble are less likely to make it to the A list though. Being creative and making a great living from your creativity seem to be two separate things. Unfortunately some of the most creative people never make great money at their craft and remain very humble and honest.

 

The study, which used the HEXACO model of personality structure, said that the people who scored low on humility and honesty were more likely to bend the rules for their own monetary gain and had a sense of entitlement. So, does this mean you have to be arrogant and dishonest in order to make a lot of money with your creativity. I hope not. And certainly the most creative people, whether they are writers, actors, artists, etc. don’t always make a lot of money.

 

There is another piece here besides just creativity. In today’s world you also need to be a good pitch person. And that requires a different set of skills. Most creatives are not very good at the business side. It helps to have both.

 

Creativity means putting yourself on display for others to judge. That means your ego will take a beating and you have to be pretty confident to keep doing it for the long haul. You have to have a thick skin to keep taking that beating over and over again. Maybe this helps to explain why creative people think highly of themselves. You have to believe in your own creativity before others will.

 

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Innovation and Winning Streaks

Innovation and Winning Streaks

With the big Mega Millions Lottery reaching a record-breaking jackpot this week, I thought I would write a post on winning. Does it contain the winning lottery numbers? Of course not. We have those under lock and key.

 

Have you ever noticed how winners seem to have things so easy? Everybody loves a winner and everybody wants to be around someone who is on a winning streak. Winners get the best table in a busy restaurant and people are drawn to them and their confidence.

 

But losers get the cold shoulder, don’t get into the trendy nightclub, and seem to fall into a spiral of doom. People don’t want to be associated with losers, who also tend to be in a bad mood. They don’t want to be dragged down by them or be associated with them.

 

Winning and losing streaks happen in sports and celebrity careers, but they also happen in business. A new business struggles to build itself up, and suddenly good sales and good word of mouth advertising propel the company into the spotlight. Your company is hot, trendy and popular. Everyone wants what you’re selling. They want anything you’re selling. Venture capitalists want to invest in you. It seems like you can’t go wrong and that’s when you might start taking things for granted. After all, you’re on top of the world.

 

You stop innovating because you begin to rest on your laurels. The competition tries harder and comes out with something new, exciting, and popular. Your fans lose enthusiasm. Your employees lose enthusiasm. The company starts to lose money. And so begins the losing streak.

 

That’s why it’s important for the company’s leaders to keep their fingers on the pulse of the people who make them winners, their employees and their fans. Employees want to know that the company values them. They want to do work that matters and makes a difference. This keeps morale and productivity high. A little innovation goes a long way and keeps employees excited about their job. They should be encouraged to bring in fresh ideas that could keep the company on a winning streak and have the confidence to know that their ideas count.

 

You also can’t ignore your customers when things take a downward turn. They are your fans, your word of mouth soldiers keeping up the buzz. If you ignore them they will leave for companies that appreciate them. Keep them happy and find out what they want. It may not be what you think. Engage them and value their opinion like you would a valued employee.

 

Winning and losing streaks happen to everyone and all businesses. Staying on top all the time is hard work and takes dedication from the entire team.

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Why China Lacks Creativity

Why China Lacks Creativity

As someone who’s been a victim of Chinese counterfeiters, I’m one person who wishes the Chinese were more creative and not just copycats. But it wasn’t always like that.

 

One of the most important innovations in history came from China. Ts’ai Lun, the inventor of paper is considered to be one the top ten most influential people in history. It’s hard to even imagine a world without paper. Before paper, most books were made of bamboo, which made them quite heavy to carry around. There were a few books written on silk, but only the wealthy could afford them. Papyrus was used in the Western world, which was more advanced than China.

 

After the invention of paper, China became one of the most productive civilizations on earth. This continued for seven or eight centuries. Other inventions, such as gunpowder and the compass pushed them even higher up the scale.

 

But these days creativity in China has been replaced by a rote system of learning. Chinese children are good at memorizing, reciting, and repetition, but not good at using their imagination.

 

The “gao kao” test hangs over the heads of all high school students like a cloud. It’s a grueling, stressful test that high school students must take to get into college. But it’s much more than that. It basically determines what path they will take in life, what college they get into, what kind of job they’ll get, who they marry, and how much money they’ll make. No pressure there, huh?

 

This is one reason Chinese students are programmed from an early age to memorize answers instead of working on problem solving and coming up with their own solution. Parents and teachers spoon feed them answers and they parrot them back. There is so much riding on this one test that there is no room at all for creativity.

 

But the Chinese do understand that in order to compete in a global economy they’ll have to do more than just repeat lines.

 

At the same time it’s hard to convince people in a strict, formal educational system that play is just as valuable as study. In order to be creative you have to step outside your comfort zone and be willing to fail. That is a very hard pill to swallow when you’ve spent your whole young life avoiding it at all costs. Decades of doing things one way and doing it so strictly makes change uncomfortable. But China will eventually get to the point where they will either have to change or be left behind by innovation.

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Innovation and Creativity

Innovation and Creativity

creativity

creativity

After spending the day speaking to several different groups about innovation and creativity I realized how hard it was to convince people that they are both important. Even though creativity and innovation are two different things, they also go hand in hand. To be innovative you have to be creative. If you want to come up with ideas, you have to think outside of your own head. (a better way of saying ‘think outside the box’)

 

And coming up with new ideas that no one has ever thought of before requires going outside your comfort zone. Sometimes you have to go way out of that comfort zone, and that’s scary for many people. All of us tend to get stuck in a rut. Even the most creative people fall into patterns that work for them. It’s human nature to follow the path of least resistance. It works for some things, like finding the fastest, most efficient way to get to work in the morning. But the process of creativity means taking roads you’ve never taken before. And that can mean it might just take longer to get where you’re going. People tend to want instant results and creativity takes its time.

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