Recently I saw a sixth grader’s social studies project on the Mayan civilisation. The student made the entire project by hand – nothing was store-bought. It showed what life may have been like around 2600 BC. There were snowcapped mountains, replicas of the distinct architecture they are known for, miniature Mayan people, and graphics representing the writing system they developed. The entire project lived in a big box and was made from clay, dirt, and grass, fashioned together with glue.
Think Like a Kid
Kids are very innovative and creative. They don’t know boundaries and don’t get stuck in “existing ways of thinking.”
In today’s world, things are changing all the time – culture and technology are a river – and things are changing fast! Of course, technology fuels a big component of everyday life and the workplace, but there are many businesses that have become – or are becoming – obsolete because they aren’t intentional about innovation. They are stuck in “existing ways of thinking”; the way things have always worked. Some businesses don’t want to take risks or experiment. In hopes of not failing, they neither fail nor succeed.
Perhaps we should take a more childlike approach to creativity and innovation within the business. Kids take risks. Their minds are free-flowing, they think on their feet and aren’t constrained by impossibilities. They have open minds, and the world is theirs for the taking. And if they fail, there are always an infinite number of other alternatives to explore. Businesses must become more adaptable in terms of fresh innovation when necessary.
Play Like a Kid
One of the biggest challenges I experience when working with business owners is that they aren’t innovating. Often, they don’t see the need to look ahead and envision where their industry will be in 10, 15, 20 years. And sometimes it is only five years out when disruption comes to wreak havoc on a business.
Being innovative is hard, particularly when you have spent the past 20-30 years in the rhythm of doing the same things the same way. So, how can you overcome this challenge?
Go play! And play with a wide variety of demographics – meaning people from a wide variety of age groups and men and women. The “play” can be something like setting up workshop-like environments where people get the opportunity to be goofy and share their ideas. Maybe even “build” ideas by going back to the basics: paper, scissors, glue, tape, markers, etc. Try going outside to play in the woods or some outdoorsy place. Again, be a kid – let your imagination run free.
Think about the challenges the business and industry face today, like labor shortages – particularly skilled labor. Automation is replacing and changing so many things, like how we shop and “who” serves us (often automation), changing regulations, and more.
Ask questions like:
- How has technology come and changed how people behave today?
- How might technology change how we behave in the future? (E.g. self-driving cars.)
- What and how can you go about manufacturing a better product for fewer costs in a quicker timeframe?
- What type of customer experience can you deliver to revolutionise the industry? (Example: Remember how Southwest changed the airline industry.)
- Be honest – will your industry, product, or service even be around in the future?
When you go to plan, brainstorm, or build, don’t eliminate any ideas. One idea that may seem “lousy” could be the seed of something brilliant – totally transformative and disruptive.
Our peer advisory groups and business networking groups are great places to discuss what you are doing to innovate, and how implementing that innovation is working in your business.