Tapping into full potential Featured

6:09am EDT August 31, 2004
Several years ago, I was involved in the asset purchase of a failed dot-com company. The core business was sound, but the business model and delivery methods were severely flawed.

My partners and I wrangled up a bit of start-up capital, landed angel funding, then set out to remake the business. Our goal was to develop a new model for an old idea.

In the end, we ran out of capital shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks forced many of our clients and prospects into defensive financial management, and well before we could prove whether the model could or could not work. But we did recognize that in order to break new ground, it was necessary to take a risk and try something different.

That is the very essence of innovation -- creating opportunities to develop new ideas. So what does it take to foster creativity within your business? Here are three ways to create an environment conducive to innovation.

Think big

This doesn't mean you should always dig in and swing for the fences -- innovation is not a matter of hitting either a home run or striking out. But you should recognize that even the smallest idea can have a big impact on your business.

A simple change to how you manage your staff or operate your supply chain or the introduction of a new product or service can dramatically affect your company's success.

Be team-oriented

Buy-in begins at the top. If you aren't willing to bet on your own idea, odds are no one else will, either. It's imperative to get your company's senior management team sold on the new idea, or you will have a difficult time selling the rest of your employees on it.

When laying out your plan to employees, be honest and open about the importance of creating a workplace where creativity can take root and grow.

Take risks and don't be afraid to fail

When it comes to smart ideas, innovation is a reward for accepting a certain level of risk. Most new ideas don't catch on immediately, and many successful business leaders have experienced -- then overcome -- failure.

Make sure your employees and management understand that there's nothing wrong with taking a small gamble on a big idea, then letting it go if it doesn't work.