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Don’t Discount Feasibility

Many presidential hopefuls this election primary have claimed the mantel of “change” as their campaign slogan. I am sure one of the major changes they desire is their name on the door to the Oval Office. All of you know that in business we deal with change every day, whether it is a long-range plan that we design or daily variables beyond our control.

How can a leader keep his organization on the successful path to growth and profitability in the future? What can be done to manage change to assure attractive rewards versus reacting to stimuli seemingly beyond our control?

One answer is our own ability to organize creative thinking. We humans have marvelous mental capacity, but what methods are available to extract the most return from invested thinking time? Do great ideas occur to you but don’t seem to get implemented? Do you recount your actions and wish you had programmed solutions before being forced to face negative results?

I have, and I am glad to know that, since others have as well, some bright minds have continued to research the issue of how we can use our resources to improve. For instance, on a Saturday morning before each new semester begins, my graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania hosts a brunch. Attendees include current students, graduates and professors along with a guest speaker. This January, we were joined by the author Richard A. Harriman, co-author with Jeff Mauzy of “Creativity Inc.”

While current success will reinforce the status quo, this can be a dangerous trap. The number one reason or support for growth and profitability is to enhance innovation ability. Harriman spoke about his approach, called “systematic creativity.” This concept is based on many years of field research, and it references tested and successful practices with the assumption that creativity occurs in three areas: individuals, coalitions and organizations. He provides a guideline to help mine your intellectual capital that should be readily available to leaders. Harriman shared some stories of innovation and then explained how creative implementation can sometimes be impeded.

Years ago, Dr. Edwin Land was at home taking some 35mm photos of his family. His young daughter said she wanted to see the pictures right away. Land explained that he needed to take the film to the darkroom and wait for development. The daughter insisted on immediate gratification. Land, a man and a scientist, then launched into longer discourse on the reasons she could not see the photos immediately. At the conclusion of his explanation, his daughter asked, “Why don’t you just move the darkroom into the camera?” Years later the Polaroid was born and became worth billions of dollars.

In 1967, a young inventor was playing the creative mind game of wishing without limits. He asked himself what he would like most. The answer was money. And he wanted it available at any time. It took about another 20 years before the first ATM machine, as we know it today, was commercially introduced.

What can we learn from these fabulous success stories? Both of their ideas were new and attractive, but they were not immediately feasible. The technology for implementation did not exist at the time. It had to be invented to support the idea. Albert Einstein needed to invent quantum mechanics as a new mathematics to support his Theory of Relativity. While these are examples of mega-success changes, how can we benefit from this approach?

Maybe we, as leaders, need to stop thinking about what is immediately practical. In the stressful rush of our days, how many ideas from our own minds or those thoughts offered by colleagues get dismissed quickly because we cannot envision the quick and practical execution? I realized that I am guilty of this chain of thought as well. We may not think that we have years and millions of dollars to invest, but some added patience could really pay huge dividends.

From the book, Harriman and Mauzy outline methods you can follow systematically to stimulate creative ideas. Those ideas, when recognized and nurtured, can translate to the future success and possibly even the very survival of your organization. Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, a Hungarian doctor who won the 1937 Nobel Prize for Medicine, noted that “Discovery consists of looking at the same thing as everyone else and thinking something different.”

Creative thinking need not only be profitable, it can be fun too. Now that would be a good change.

Joseph Greco is president of Greco Apparel. You can visit them on the web at www.grecoapparel.com.

Above story first appeared in MADE TO MEASURE Magazine, Fall & Winter 2008 issue. All rights reserved. Photos appear by special permission.
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