The fuel of business Featured

7:42pm EDT August 30, 2006
How many times have you heard, “Think outside the box”? Or, “Change is good”?

Innovation is the fuel of American business. It is built on the creativity of individuals and groups within an organization.

“Managers have been successful in their use of the creative process in efforts to bring new products or services to the marketplace,” says Bob Preziosi, a professor of management in the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. “Creativity is also an important element in business process improvement and other change efforts.”

Certainly, professionals and executives have the innate knowledge and skills to be creative and innovative — or they wouldn’t be where they are. But sometimes the status quo is easier to accept than moving forward in thought and action. Therefore, a natural resistance to change usually stands in the way of new ideas and concepts.

In most cases, sharpening or enhancing creativity skills can give astute managers the impetus they need to take their success to another level.

Smart Business spoke with Preziosi and came up with ways that organizations can spark creative and innovative power within their employees. Using Preziosi’s tips can help the fuel (and energy) of creativity and innovation flow.

How important are other people in seeking a level of creativity and innovation?
You have to be receptive not only to your own ideas, but to those of others. By listening to suggestions that are outside the normal train of thought, new possibilities arise. Avoid dismissing or negatively reacting to ideas that other people come up with.

You also have to expose yourself to other people’s creative products. One of the best ways to do this is to visit an art museum or wander around an art exhibition. It will allow you to see that there are many different perspectives to things you’ve only seen or imagined in a single way.

What effect does intuition have on creativity and innovation?
Avoid accepting your first ‘right’ idea. Always try to put the first idea on the back burner. For example, if you’re with a group of people deciding where to go for lunch, express appreciation for the first restaurant that someone suggests. Then solicit other possible restaurants before everyone makes a final, single choice.

Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks, either. Even a person who shoots from the hip has some idea how accurate the shot will be. Avoid the tendency to do the usual or normal without any thinking or analysis of what the outcome will be. Stretch the limits of your willingness to take risks.

What are the most common ways of discovering new ideas, approaches, products or services?
Many great products have been the result of combining two or more things that no one had thought of before. Examples include the clock radio or a cell phone that has photo, video and calculator capacities. It only takes being ready and willing to bring together things that were once separate (and believed to be best that way).

It helps if you see yourself as successful with your creative endeavor. The new double-decker commercial aircraft that can handle between 600 and 800 passengers is now a reality because people were able to visualize themselves with the knowledge and skill to be creative and innovative in their efforts.

Also, don’t hesitate to use part of your day stretching your creativity muscles. You can do this in fun ways by brainstorming a list of possible uses for something like a paper clip or plastic cup. Other ways to enhance your creativity include spending time with creative people and reading magazines that you don’t normally read. The art show idea works here, too.

Finally, flexibility, can keep the options developing. While it is probable that you travel the same route to work every day, you don’t eat the same thing for lunch every day. Going to work the same way every day is a set but efficient habit. The flexibility in eating is an example of considering options.

BOB PREZIOSI is a professor of management in the H .Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University. He has been delivering leadership training and education for more than 30 years. Reach him at preziosi@huizenga.nova.edu or through the school’s Web site at www.huizenga.nova.edu.