Albert Einstein said that “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” I try to have fun but I’m not very good at doing it consistently.
I’ve got a lot to learn about innovation and fun, but so do a lot of businesses.
Mix fun and innovation and you have the potential to develop ideas that could become the next big thing. Employees would benefit too. Wouldn’t you prefer to work at a company that values having fun AND being innovative? I would.
It turns out that having fun is something that helps our brains develop new ideas that aren’t simply a marginal improvement over old ideas.
My wife, DeAnne, is a career coach (her blog is at http://www.deliberatecareers.com/blog/) and she says that the science behind “traditional” thinking is better known as “convergent thinking.” Convergent thinking can be familiar and comfortable but it often produces results like cookie-cutter cars rolling off an assembly line.
Conversely, divergent thinking prods the comfort zone in multiple directions and results in a variety of answers to the same problem. A good example: during the Apollo 13 mission, the convergent thinking ground crew was pushed into quickly producing an air purifier from rudimentary, unlikely parts. As you know, their innovative design not only worked, it saved the astronauts’ lives.
So, how can we improve our own innovation to develop new ideas? While I’ve seen plenty of proposals, some including the use of Nerf guns in the office, I propose that the following ideas to accomplish much of the heavy lifting:
• Solicit suggestions for improvement from every employee, supplier, and customer in a non-confrontational manner. These can be simple cost reduction ideas or long-term market suggestions. Document and prioritize to determine which ideas should be investigated further.
• Reward people who provide ideas that produce a positive result. These rewards should be communicated to everyone.
• Communicate the company’s purpose, even if it’s simply to make money or survive the next downturn, along with the long-term strategy to accomplish this purpose. For long-term strategies, I recommend starting with 15 years — your mileage may vary.
• Provide some time for every employee to think strategically (see my earlier post Do you give employees time to goof around? Some do!) and provide suggestions for further consideration.
• Pay attention to how your competitors are moving in market position, technology development, and patent filing. This information should produce many questions within your company.
• Finally, anticipate that many ideas won’t surface until people have some fun time to allow themselves to be pushed out of their cubicles.
So, now that you have these ideas for improving your organization, what do you think of Handerpants? Just a joke?
Nope, find them for sale at http://www.handerpants.com/.
Think about them when you need a reminder to think outside of the (ahem) boxers.
Picture credit: handerpants.com