from Innovative Leader
Volume 6, Number 6
With Your Bright Ideas
Tucker is author of Winning
the Value Revolution (Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 1995),
and is a speaker on innovation strategies for business.
(Phone 805-682-1012; email firstname.lastname@example.org or www.speakers.com/tucker.html)
navigate successfully in a future of constant change, you must pay
closer attention to the way you invite new ideas into your
you must work to strengthen the process of bringing new ideas to
life. As Jack Welch,
chairman of General Electric, said, “If the rate of change
inside an organization is less than the rate of change outside,
the end is in sight.”
the key message I learned from interviewing more than 100 leading
innovators, and researching 500 more. I
found that their processes of coming up with ideas and bringing
them to life have many common elements.
I’ll present the major ones to help you get good ideas
and move forward on them.
about the last time you ran across a situation that was so
frustrating, so in need of improvement, that you found yourself
muttering, “There’s got to be a better way.”
The minute you uttered that thought, you assaulted your
re-identified the situation as a “problem” rather than just
“a hassle, but the way things are.”
you first tackle your assumptions, you begin the process that
leads to innovation. This
flash of impatience with the status quo leads you to challenge not
only your own assumptions, but the assumptions of others as well.
read an article about Les McCraw, chairman and CEO of Fluor
Corporation, who upon assuming the leadership of that firm, began
to realize how hidebound and rigid the organization had become.
His solution was to invite a group of 4th
graders from a local school to brainstorm with a group of
managers. The article
didn’t mention what results had come from that unusual session,
so I called the company to find out.
It turned out that those fourth graders didn’t come up
with anything truly innovative.
As I hung up the phone, I thought, “Too bad.
That would have been an excellent example of creativity to
use in my seminars.” But
as I thought about it, the more I realized it wasn’t the
results, or the lack of them, that mattered.
It was the larger message that McCraw was sending his
people: to shake up
time you’re faced with a situation where you don’t like the
options, ask yourself and others involved: “What else can you
think of that might be better?”
Then pause, and wait for creativity to kick in.
People will rise to the challenge to think outside the box
if only they are asked to do so.
foremost trait among innovators is that they are
don’t just hatch ideas, they run with them.
Bill Kelly, a vice president of Plymouth Rock Assurance
Corporation in Boston, noticed how his customers resented having
to go through the bureaucratic and tedious process known as claims
adjustment after they’d had a fender bender. So he came up with a “better way.” Why not go to the customers instead of having them come to
us? And so the
company’s Crashbuster response units were born.
The adjuster videotapes the damage, hits a few keys on his
laptop computer and immediately issues a check for the needed body
told me that he faced lots of skepticism when he was trying to
gather support for the idea.
Chief among them was, “it will cost too much!”
But by following through on his possibility, the company
enjoys the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any auto
insurer in the area; and it also has the lowest cost of doing
ideas is great. But
unless you pursue them
with passion, that’s all they ever become:
we’ve all heard, “Ideas are a dime a dozen.”
universal characteristic among the change masters is that they are
voracious readers. Rinaldo
Brutoco, co-founder of Red Rose Gallery, a successful catalog
company, reads everything from the Wall
Street Journal to matchbook covers looking for ideas, looking
to learn, and looking for what people are going to want next.
also have a knack for gleaning insights from people. Akio Morita, founder of Sony Corporation, wanted to design
products that would sell in the U.S.
So he moved his family to New York in the 1960’s to
develop a deeper understanding of the American consumer.
It would have been easy to socialize with other Japanese
expatriates; instead, he and his family purposefully reached out
to make new friends among the natives.
America became a phenomenal success, introducing one new product
so easy to become isolated in your viewpoints as the result of
your lifestyle and age group; but feed your mind on different
points of view, talk to people from different walks of life, and
look for patterns of change in your conversations and travels.
If you’re young, “walk a mile in the shoes” of an
octogenarian, and vice versa.
Go out of your way to talk to a co-employee who has
expertise and interests most different than yours.
Doing so will not only be friendly, it will increase your
confidence and ability to come up with ideas that are in step with
Your Idea Factory
are super-conscious of the process of how they invite ideas into
their lives, and what they can do with ideas once they hatch them. That’s why they take the time to inspect and fortify their
idea factories the same way an accomplished golfer keeps working
to improve his or her drive, chipping and putting.
more you work with your ideas and pay attention to what works best
for you, the more ideas you’ll invite into your life. And
the more ideas you’ll be able to pursue.
Pay attention to when you get your best ideas, make the
effort to “download” them to paper, disk or tape, and know
what to do when you get creatively stuck.
Perhaps all you need is to take a walk, enjoy a
mini-vacation or putter in the garden.
With Your Gut
whom I’ve interviewed often talk about how they “went with
their intuition” even when everybody around them thought they
were crazy. Innovators
kept referring to “trusting their gut.” What
did they mean? Doug
Greene, is the innovative chairman of New Hope Communications, a
consortium of health and fitness-related trade magazines.
“If I don’t feel good in my stomach about a
decision,” Greene told me, “I don’t care if the numbers say
we’re going to make a billion dollars.
That’s how important intuition is to me.
It’s an actual feeling either way.
When it doesn’t feel good, it’s just like a nervous
stomach, and when a decision feels right, it’s like a great
by its nature, means that you’re doing something that’s never
been done before. There
are no step-by-step recipes, and no market research can guarantee
success. But going
with your gut can become a kind of sixth sense telling you to
“keep the faith and continue” or “throw in the towel.”
It can help you read people’s true intentions and
character, it can help you spot trouble spots, think of novel
solutions to problems, and alert you when something’s not
who consistently make ideas come alive are eager for advice and
constructive criticism. They’ve
developed the ego-strength to listen because they know that it
just might help improve performance. They’re
constantly polling their customers and potential customers (and
everyone else) to understand better how their ideas can be
improved, altered and adapted to better meet the needs of others.
Innovation-minded people harvest more ideas because they ask
for them. In their
eagerness to succeed, they face the feedback, and they use it to
guide decisions and avoid false assumptions.
every innovation lies a champion, somebody who orchestrated the
work of other people to do what was necessary.
Those whom I’ve studied were not all natural-born
salespeople or promoters. Far
from it. But they didn’t run from managing this vital part of the
process; for to have done so would have meant failure.
Ideas do not sell themselves, no matter how compelling.
learn to persuade others, to gain trust, to think differently
about their challenges. They
learn to define and articulate the benefits of their ideas to an
often indifferent, and frequently hostile, world.
They learn how to win cooperation from their bosses,
manufacturers, finance, sales and other gatekeepers of
learn to assess the critical role of timing in selling their
ventures. They learn that facing the heat is inevitable.
Obstacles and barriers, crises and setbacks are part of the
journey. Rejection is
just another opportunity for feedback and course correction.
Mostly, they learn that passion and persistence win out.
one is committed,” wrote the poet Goethe, “there is hesitancy,
the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
But the moment one definitely commits, providence moves
too. All sorts of
things occur to assist that would never otherwise have
Goethe ends this passage in what might be called the innovator’s
you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”