50 Ways to Put Innovation on the To-Do List

Tuesday, 15 December 2009 13:39 by kpotvin

Via today’s SmartBrief on Leadership, I saw an inspiring blog post, 50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation,” by Mitch Ditkoff of Idea Champions.  Here are some of my favorite tips:

#4. Always question authority, especially the authority of your own longstanding beliefs.

#8. Help people broaden their perspective by creating diverse teams and rotating employees into new projects -- especially ones they are fascinated by.

#12. Instead of seeing creativity training as a way to pour knowledge into people's heads, see it as a way to grind new glasses for people so they can see the world in a different way.

#30. Stimulate interaction between segments of the company that traditionally don't connect or collaborate with each other.

#41. Don't make innovation the responsibility of a few. Make innovation the responsibility of each and every employee with performance goals for each and every functional area.

But don’t stop here.  Read all 50 tips and be inspired to move innovation to the top of your to-do list in the New Year.

 

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Help Fight Pink Fatigue!

Thursday, 1 October 2009 07:47 by kpotvin

 

Each October, Splash goes pink to urge marketers and consumers to Fight Pink Fatigue.  As a symbolic gesture during National Breast Cancer Awareness month, we change the Splash logo from blue to pink.  Why do we do this?  As a breast cancer survivor and a marketer, I see the value of these cause-related efforts from both sides.  Three years ago, I was immersed in the cancer world, discovering more about it than I ever wanted.  One thing I learned quickly was that all the dollars funneled into attacking this disease are helping.  In the last decade, there has been much progress.  One reason is that the breast cancer awareness cause has gotten some great attention from Corporate America.  This support has made an important and positive impact on the prevention, detection and treatment of the disease…and I hope on the companies’ bottom lines too.  That’s my marketer side coming out.  After all, companies – no matter how altruistic -- are not going to continue cause-related programs if there is no return on investment.  So we say keep selling pink products, keep buying pink products and together we will keep breast cancer on the run.  For inspiration, here are a few examples of pink programs:

NFL – The NFL, its clubs and players launched a campaign, "A Crucial Catch," in partnership with the American Cancer Society.  It focuses on the importance of annual screenings, especially for women who are over the age of 40.  Throughout October, NFL games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel to raise awareness for the campaign, as well as on-field pink ribbon stencils and special K-balls and pink coins. All apparel worn at games by players and coaches and special K-balls and pink coins will auctioned off, with proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society and team charities.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) -- P&G launched GIVE HOPE, a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. to help increase women's chances of survival from breast cancer through early detection.  A special edition of the P&G brandSAVER coupon booklet was included in newspapers across the country this past Sunday to help kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month today. For every brandSAVER coupon redeemed from this booklet, a two-cent donation will be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc – with no cap.  Dancing With the Stars" host Carrie Ann Inaba is helping spread the word.

RedEnvelope --  When you shop the Pink Ribbon Collection at RedEnvelope, 10% of the revenue goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. When you purchase a gift from the Collection, you will receive free shipping for a limited time.

Yoplait (General Mills)Yoplait, in partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, launched Know Your Girls, a sassy interactive campaign geared to young women. Yoplait encourages young women to take a pledge to protect their "girls" and also share the information with their friends.  For every pledge received by October 31, 2009, Yoplait will donate 10 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, up to $100,000.  

There are many other wonderful companies helping with this cause.  Tell us how you are fighting pink fatigue.

The Splash for the Cure Team joins thousands of walkers in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Exeter, NH, on Sunday, Oct. 18.  Last year's event raised $236,970 and we hope this year is even better.

 

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Happy Employees - A Competitive Advantage

Monday, 28 September 2009 18:02 by kpotvin

  

We recently ate at Texas Roadhouse with the kids.  As our hostess asked us if we’d like to select our steak from the butcher case of raw ribeyes, New York strips and filets, we learned she was a vegetarian.  How, we asked, could a vegetarian work at a steak restaurant?  She answered, “For the money – and it’s fun.”

We couldn’t argue with that.  This is the kind of place where you drop empty peanut shells on the floor, and where birthday celebrants perch on saddles as other diners shout, “Yee-ha!”  Also, you are bound to see the wait staff erupt into a “spontaneous” line dance – joined by customers.  All that and the food is pretty good.  One more thing:  The waiters wear black T-shirts which say on the back, “I (heart) my job.”  They really make you feel like they do. 

Employee happiness is important.  One study from earlier this year out of Kansas State University showed that happy employees could be an indicator of company success, an actual competitive advantage.  The study by Thomas Wright, Jon Wefald Leadership Chair in Business Administration and professor of management at K-State, found that “when employees have high levels of psychological well-being and job satisfaction, they perform better and are less likely to leave their job -- making happiness a valuable tool for maximizing organizational outcomes.”

Good pay, incentives for advancement, a motivating vision, recognition (see our recent story on the Art in Giving recognition program), training, a fun work environment – what are you doing to keep your team members happy and engaged?  Your customers…and business depend on it. 

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Keep Moving Forward

Tuesday, 22 September 2009 12:17 by kpotvin

Last night, I caught the end of the animated flick, "Meet the Robinsons," with my son and noticed a quote from Walt Disney (the man) before the closing credits. Here it is:

"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long.  We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."

The movie celebrates imagination so the quote is a good fit.  Even better, it's an important reminder that while we should learn from the past, we need to "keep moving forward."  Stay curious.

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Borrowing Brilliance

Friday, 18 September 2009 09:11 by kpotvin

 

We’ve said it before:  Borrowing isn’t bad and we are happy that Author David Kord Murray agrees.  He just came out with a new book, “Borrowing Brilliance, The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others.”  You can hear him talk about it in a terrific interview by Reena Jana, Innovation Department Editor for BusinessWeek (also read her review).  Jana asks Murray, former head of innovation for Intuit, about “copying” ideas and Murray explains, “It’s about the fine line between plagiarism and innovation…In the book I talk about how you define a problem and then you go out and look for places with a similar problem and borrow ideas from there.”  He describes how Biologist Charles Darwin borrowed from geology, and later economics, to come up with his best ideas.  Another example is Google, which used libraries and researchers as models when developing its online search tool.There are so many sources of inspiration: nature, other industries, history.  Borrow from the best and add your own twist.  After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?  What do you think?

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News Splash Interview: Discovering Inspiration All Around You

Saturday, 5 September 2009 08:48 by kpotvin

 

Photo Credit: Constance Koons

This News Splash interview is with Patricia Fargnoli, former Poet Laureate of New Hampshire and author of six collections of poetry including her just-released book, Then, Something (Tupelo Press). I had the pleasure of working with Pat on a statewide initiative she created during her Poet Laureate tenure that celebrated children’s poetry.  As she talks about her creative process, I see many lessons for business people such as “letting go” to conjure innovation, discovering inspiration all around you, about the hard work of honing a good idea until it is ready for prime time, about the importance of feedback and more.  Read on and be inspired!   And, for anyone local, stop by and hear Pat read from her new book at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, on Thursday, Sept. 10, at 6:30pm as part of the Hyla Brook Reading Series.    

News Splash (NS):  When we worked together for the statewide Children's Poetry in the Libraries program, you were anything but a stereotypical lost-in-the-clouds artist.  You are an amazing project manager:  very strategic and organized while rallying a big volunteer work force.  Are these traits that help you approach your creative side as well?

Pat:  Thank you, Kyle.  That project was such a joy to work with you on!  One of the things that made it so much fun was that I got to use some long dormant skills of mine that I acquired in my first years as a social worker when I administered a YWCA program for young women in trouble with the law…and later when I worked as the supervisor of a team of technical workers at Aetna Insurance Company. 

But strangely…or perhaps not…I am utterly unorganized and “lost-in-the-clouds” when it comes to writing poetry.  I write best when I can let go of the need to control the words and the direction of the poem, and try to get into a kind of “loose-mind” state and just write.  I think, for any artist, there are three kinds of “work.”  One is the creative part where you try to access the deeper (perhaps subconscious or dreamlike) parts of yourself.  Or where you try to “see” a thing (a mountain, for instance, a deer, a city, etc.) in a way it's never been seen before and then give it a new language.  Or where you try to give a language to a feeling or thought that seems to be almost beyond words.

The second kind of “work” is revision when the conscious mind with all its knowledge of craft and technical skill steps in and begins shaping the piece, much the way the sculptor chisels the marble to find the shape within.  The third “work” is the business of poetry…knowing the potential markets, writing cover letters, networking, getting poems sent out. 
My “business skills” of course come most into play with the third “work”  but also with the second kind where one has to know the tools, believe in oneself and ones art, be motivated to work hard and stick to it.

NS:   I've always been fascinated by how many poets come from a business-type background.  You are a retired therapist, Dana Gioia was an executive at General Foods, Wallace Stevens was at Aetna, T.S. Eliot spent several years at Lloyd's Bank of London.  Why do you think this is?

Pat:
  Hmmm.  These days far more poets come from academic jobs, primarily as teachers in the colleges and MFA programs.  In general, poets from the business world have to work harder and be luckier to be successful.  The hard fact is that being a poet doesn't pay and all poets need a “day job.”  Those with corporate jobs in general are better off financially than those who teach.  I have, recently, seen a fair number of poets emerge from the medical professions. William Carlos Williams was a doctor, Courtney Davis has edited an anthology of poems by nurses, C. Dale Young, the editor of the New England Review, is a doctor.  I guess the bottom line is that poets can spring from anywhere and work at any job at all to sustain themselves.  But regardless, all of us share a love of the language and the desire to express our vision of the world.

NS:  Why is poetry important? 

Pat:  Because it constantly redefines reality and expands our understanding of the worlds...both those we live in and those beyond us.  Because it translates the unsayable into language.  Because it connects us to the creative spirit in the universe.  Because it informs us about and connects us to our common humanity...in all its beauty, flaws and frailty.  Because it is a source of joy.

NS:  Tell me about your creative process.

Pat: I read a great deal of poetry by other poets, not only for enjoyment (though that is key) but because it both inspires my own, and teaches me techniques and strategies I didn't know before.  Often I read poems to start my writing day.  Then I either sit down with a pad, or sit before the computer, and begin with whatever is on my mind or happening right outside my window, or right in front of me (once I wrote a poem about a bug that was sitting on my computer).

I usually just try to keep writing without worrying very much about whether it's a poem or not (nevermind a good one).  A friend calls this the “garbage page.”  Later I type it up or print it out and start cutting and shaping.  After that, I put it away a few days, then revise some more and when I've got the poem as far as I can take it, I'll show someone (usually people in one of my workshops) and ask for feedback.  Then more revision.  Often a poem will take months, even years before I feel it's done.

But there are other ways poems come into being too.  Perhaps I'll see a bunch of words or a magazine article or something that intrigues me.  Or some event will happen and I'll rush home and write about it;  or I'll be driving and see something I don't want to lose and so I'll write it down on a napkin or something on the steering wheel (which I don't recommend).

NS:  Do you have any tips for business people who want to more fully tap into their creative side?

Pat: The famous German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, in his poem, “Archaic Torso of Apollo” says that once you have seen the power of art “you must change your life.”   I agree.  Making a space for poetry in my life has totally changed my life and given me a wealth of friendships and immeasurable happiness.  It is indeed possible to combine a business life and a creative life.  One simply needs to shift priorities enough to create the space/time for making art in one's life.  There is a wonderful book/workbook called The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron that lays out a complete plan for making that happen.  I was once in a workshop group with 30 artists and we worked with that book together. It was life-changing, and I highly recommend it.

NS:  What inspires you?

Pat:  Mountains, ponds, deer, foxes, the color blue, things of the spirit, all things mysterious, the questions for which I have no answers.

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Simple Leadership Lessons from The Senator

Thursday, 3 September 2009 04:20 by kpotvin

In a recent blog post, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good, draws four important leadership lessons from her observations and time with the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy:

·         Remember that performance is everything

·         Find a higher purpose

·         Keep going (resilience)

·         Never forget family

The beauty of these four lessons is their simplicity.  Life -- and business -- doesn’t have to be complicated.  I encourage you to read Professor Kanter’s entire piece.

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News Splash Interview: How To Write A Book When You Have A Full Time Job

Wednesday, 17 June 2009 11:38 by kpotvin
 

 

This News Splash interview is with Tim McIntyre, Vice President, Communications, Domino’s Pizza, and co-author with Dave Melton of “Hire The American Dream, How to Build Your Minimum-Wage Workforce into a High-Performance, Customer-Focused Team.” Not only is Tim an exceptional writer but he is also one of the best PR professionals and corporate spokespeople out there.  By the way, I’ve seen Dave Melton’s teams in action and they are phenomenal – learn his secrets by reading “Hire the American Dream” – it’s relevant for anyone who manages teams.

News Splash (NS):  Tell us about “Hire the American Dream.”

Tim: Dave Melton [Domino’s Franchisee] has built a culture in his four Manhattan Domino’s stores seldom found in the quick serve industry. This is an industry where 150% turnover is typical and managers are replaced yearly in many restaurants. In Dave’s case, his average employee stays 8 years and managers average 6 years. When there has been turnover of managers, it was because the manager went on to become a store owner like Dave. Dave creates this culture by sharing his business philosophy and successes, and reinforcing that everyone wins when the store succeeds. This is a how-to book which shows that anyone can build this type of culture.

NS:  Dave asked you several times to help him write this book and you turned him down at first.  How come?

Tim: An editor from John Wiley & Sons saw an article about Dave in The New York Times and called him to say, “I think you have a book here for managers of entry-level, minimum wage employees.”  Dave came to me, said he had a book deal and asked me if I wanted to help write it.  I turned him down. I have a day job and it’s a pretty busy one. Besides, Dave lives in New York City – swing a pizza bag and you’ll hit a writer. I thought he could easily find a writing partner there. Dave approached me a second and then a third time, and said, “You know who I am. You know Domino’s. Let’s do this together.” I proposed the idea to my boss, Lynn Liddle, and Dave Brandon, Domino’s CEO, and said that if I participate, we will have an accurate portrayal of Domino’s Pizza and be involved in the final outcome. It can also help with recruiting and franchising as well as improve internal operations. I also outlined how I’d do it along with my job. They gave their full support.

NS:  How did you find time to write a book while working full time?

Tim: We had 12 weeks to turn in 60,000 words. We started in June 2008 and the full manuscript was due the day after Labor Day. I did a lot of writing at night, on weekends, on airplanes and on vacation. Dave provided me with a constant stream of ideas and insights into his business philosophies, how he manages people and how he’s built a culture for his stores. It was a matter of taking those gems and turning them into a manuscript. I came in to the office by 7 am before it opened, at lunch I’d pick up the project and then again at the end of the day. I had a supportive boss and family. I have the benefit of having older kids so I didn’t have to attend events like Little League games. I literally looked at the calendar and found chunks of time for writing. I never want to do that again. If I have another book in me, I’d write most of it before approaching a publisher. Then I would spend that time polishing instead of writing.

NS:  What did you learn about publishing during the process that could help others interested in writing a business book?

Tim: First, publishers like Wiley are looking for books that others can learn from. They like lesson books, not biographies. We always had to keep in mind: Will this help anyone? Is this useable stuff? That’s why we focused so much on offering practical tips on exactly what to do and how to do it. That was also the driving force behind the profiles of people who started as minimum wage employees but are now incredibly successful. For instance, Emir Lopez from East Harlem who worked for Dave had an opportunity to “escape” from his upbringing but he chose to go back and bring Domino’s to the neighborhood he grew up in. He saw opportunity that others didn’t – he knew the neighborhood and that people were hungry for a company to provide the same services that other communities enjoy. He was the first to bring food delivery to the neighborhood and the store has thrived. Our goal was to write a book with value on every page and tell inspiring stories like this.

I also learned the importance of Chapter 1. When someone is in a bookstore with their latte, they look at the front cover, the back cover, and then flip to Chapter 1. We wrote and rewrote that chapter four times because we were constantly pushed by Wiley on that first piece. It makes or breaks the sale.

NS:  There is nothing like a trip to gain perspective.  You just got back from an amazing trip to Machu Picchu.  Any epiphanies?

Tim:  Four days hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu was the most physically exhausting – and the most exhilarating – thing I’ve ever done. On day two, we walked (and walked!) up and over “Dead Woman’s Pass,” more than 13,000 feet above sea level, carrying packs on our backs. It felt like cinder blocks had been attached to our hiking boots. The air is thin and the trail is steep. At the same time, we were reveling in the incredible beauty of Peru and were marveling at the technological advances of the Inca people; it distracted us from the physical struggle of the trek. Traveling like this opens you up to the world, to new points of view and to different perspectives on history.  But if there was an epiphany, it was this:  you can overcome challenges if you’ve got the passion, the will and the tools to do so…whether those challenges are hiking the Inca Trail, writing a book in three months or something even more meaningful. You really can do things you didn’t think were possible.  All you have to do is try.

 

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Lesson from Times Square: No Sacred Cows

Friday, 12 June 2009 08:37 by kpotvin

I was curious to see the new set up in Times Square now that parts are closed to traffic, creating a pedestrian mall in the crossroads of the world.  Strolling through the other night, it was filled with tourists and natives alike, many resting on the lawn chairs placed on this empty stretch of Broadway.  Talk about bold.  Mayor Bloomberg’s solution to tackling congestion (traffic and crowds) in Midtown is out of the box and reminds us that when you are problem solving, nothing should be sacred.  Can you imagine the first meeting when someone suggested closing Times Square to traffic?  I’m sure it seemed quite complicated and possibly laughable.  And yet, why not?  Take a chance on fresh thinking.  Consider everything, even ideas that question those sacred cows in your organization. While the cabbies I spoke with weren’t happy with the new configuration, pedestrians certainly were.  Time will tell if this experiment becomes a permanent addition to one of my favorite cities. I think it will.  Remember, if you can make change there, you can make it anywhere.

 

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I love hoops&yoyo

Friday, 5 June 2009 11:50 by kpotvin

Anyone else find Hallmark's line of hoops&yoyo cards hilarious?  If you aren't familiar with the line, there are two characters -- a pink kitty and a green bunny who offer spirited back and forth on a variety of subjects.  Listen to some of their banter here.  My first job out of college was with a division of American Greetings and there weren't too many variations on the traditional greeting card back then.  At that point, sending a HUUUGE card was a novelty (oops, did I date myself?).  The card world has come a long way with innovations like e-cards, voice recording and sound technology to keep customers coming.  And the marketing has come a long way too.  hoops&yoyo not only have their own web site but they have a blog.  Guess we'll see them on Twitter soon.

 

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