Tag: innovation

Become A Rebel And Boost Your Career

Become a rebel with a cause to boost your careerHarvard Business School professor Francesca Gino firmly believes that being a rebel with a cause will boost your career and enrich you personally.

The professor conducted a study of more than 1000 employees and found that less than 10% worked at companies that encouraged challenging the status quo. According to her “when this happens, workers and their organisations both pay a price”. The price is decreased engagement, productivity and innovation.

Apparently the pressure to conform also increases as people progress in their careers. She states that sheep are easier to manage than wolves and a study on peer pressure by psychologist Solomon Asch found that 75% of people will pick an answer they know is wrong simply in order to fit in.

The professor believes that if we adopt constructive nonconformism and be authentic then this will benefit the organisation that you work for. In addition others respond positively to those who dare to be genuine and authentic. In an assessment of entrepreneurs at pitch contests, those who seemed sincere were three times more likely to win than those who were not authentic.

Professor Gino has 3 tips for us:

  1. Challenge your own assumptions first
  2. Master the past
  3. Start small

If you have any questions regarding being a rebel then please get in touch.

Innovation, a panacea for small retailers?

Research shows that consumers gain most pleasure from the act of shopping, rather than from the outcome or purchase.  The idea of ‘shopping as leisure’ has defined many new retail developments such Cardiff’s new St David’s shopping centre and the Trinity shopping centre in Leeds (other retail experiences exist!). Could innovation be a way to help smaller retailers now that others have shown the way?

I had the pleasure of living in Cardiff when the St Davids centre opened and waited to see if it would sink or swim. The effect it had was to help the city climb up the UK retail index. At the time many smaller independent traders were uncertain as to whether this would put them out of business or act as a magnet to attract more customers for them.

A  recent study showed the impact on traders in the nearby Victorian market and arcades, with only 10% of the 90,000 people walking along the City’s High Street each week confirming that they visited the Castle Quarter arcades.

This poses the question – in today’s continually innovative retail market, should smaller, traditional retailers adapt their stores to the changed retail habits of today’s consumer? What can they do to make sure that consumers enjoy the experience, as well as the purchases that the independent traders are known for?

Where can retailers turn to for ideas and advice? Banks and Post Offices turned to theme parks for help in making queuing experiences less painful so maybe some alternative thinking would help?

Could a bookshop offer a great cup of coffee to fortify tired shoppers or keep hold of them for longer? Could the male barbershop be enhanced to pamper men in the same way as ladies hairdressers?


Creativity, are you having a laugh?

One sign that your brainstorming session is going well is an abundance of belly shaking laughter. Laughter can help people solve problems that demand creative solutions, by making it easier to think more broadly and associate ideas/relationships more freely. Recent research shows that people in a lighter mood experience more eureka! moments.

Karuna Subramaniam conducted research at Northwestern University and found that boosting the mood of volunteers increased their likelihood of having an aha! moment as measured by their ability to solve a word association puzzle, the standard test for creative problem solving. Those who watched a comedy were measurably better at the task using insight than those who watched a horror film, or worse yet, a lecture about quantum electronics.

Using functional MRI, she discovered that creative insight is correlated with increased activity in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) just prior to solving a problem. This region is involved in regulating attention and in problem solving. And people in a positive mood generally have more ACC activity going into the task, which probably helps. Participants who watched scary movies demonstrated less creativity in solving the puzzles. Other studies have shown that improvisational comedians generate more and better ideas than professional product designers.

Rex Jung, an assistant research professor of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico and a practicing clinical neuropsychologist proposes that creative capacities are not the same as intellectual capacities. The ability to acquire and process facts and observations—to reason—is fundamentally different from the ability to put them together in innovative ways.

When we perform intellectual tasks, neural networks appear to function in more directed and linear ways. However, when we attempt to perform more creative tasks, it is as if the neural pathways plot more meandering paths. Jung’s findings suggest that our usual neural process of seeing and processing the world switches off for a while to make space for a different kind of engagement.

What does this mean for you in your role as innovation manager or workshop facilitator? Well, humour, lightened mood, and mental spaciousness are important when it comes to encouraging creativity, ideation, and problem solving.  This also validates the strange creative exercises that we facilitators like to do at the beginning of workshop sessions! In future newsletters I will feature some examples of how different types of humour can help us in different ways.

Wailing Brothers - Malawi's best reggae artistsIn the meantime why not lighten your mood by listening to a spot of Malawian reggae? Click on the picture to watch  the Wailing Brothers on YouTube.

Measuring productivity – is it healthy?

Having recently embarked on some work for a well-known household name I have felt the effect of some very rigid and somewhat unhelpful tools for measuring productivity. There has also been a huge outburst in the media here in the UK about Sports Direct and their draconian monitoring of the productivity of warehouse workers.

We now have the ability (but more worryingly the desire) to see how fast our employees walk, how long their toilet breaks are and how many widgets they can carry per hour. This sort of measurement focuses only on actions that the employer has previously determined will help the business, not on actions that the employer has forgotten about (productivity failure there for the board) or on problem-solving and thinking.

What should happen if an employee takes the time to stop and think (and possibly find an improved way of doing things) in a warehouse? What if he or she could suggest moving the racks  of widgets so that they and their colleagues do not have to walk so far in a day? Potentially an employer is removing the likelihood of the business becoming more productive!

So productivity tools do not measure the usefulness of thinking!

There are many bad things about measuring productivity, enough perhaps to write a book about but here are a couple more to get you thinking.

In order to foster a culture of innovation we need to embrace ambiguity and we often have to perform non-standard activities – we need to take risks. Activities such as prototyping or research are often unplanned with uncertain outcomes. Our productivity measurement machine would not like this. Do you think this is helpful to our innovation efforts or will most employees conform because it maximises their pay at the end of the month?

Core features of innovation are killed by productivity tools!

Innovation is a team or perhaps company-wide activity but our monster measurement tools are usually looking at what individual employees are doing. This does not recognise the fact that individuals contribute in different ways or more importantly that when an employee has an off day his or her colleagues can rally round and help. No, we must let poorly performing individuals drown apparently.

Productivity tools are looking at the wrong things! 

These are just a few ideas on why such tools may not help. If you use any tools to help measure productivity or the performance of employees please take the time to think about what you want to achieve, and why. More importantly think about what these tools could be stopping you from achieving (thinking, team working, less stress, innovation …).

Oh, and I forgot to say that simply introducing such a system introduces an overhead anyway (not good for productivity is it?).

Innovation on Flexi Time

Often there is no budget for innovation so it can be difficult to make innovation part of everyday life when the bean counters demand that everything is charged to a cost centre.
This is the big dilemma, the trade-off between money and the time that we need to ‘steal’.

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