October 22, 2007

Good day, team,

Your challenge this week is about innovation. In a recent meeting, the guest speaker quoted a well-known retailer in Great Britain: “If you do something first, your customer thinks you do it for them. If you do something second, they think you do it for yourself.”

The speaker went on to say that being innovative, although often risky, puts you out in front of your competitors in ways you cannot imagine, and that this process is a big part of the fun: discovering what happens to your ideas as they become reality.

The dictionary defines “innovate” (from the Latin word “innovare,” to renew) to include not only introducing something new but making changes to anything established. It’s easy to recognize innovation when a product or process is brand new: We’ve never seen it before. But many innovations simply renew or redesign something that needs improvement.

My new i-Phone is the most innovative item I’ve purchased in the last few years. There are many new things about this product that make it a joy to use; having my i-Pod as part of my phone, accessing videos and e-mail quickly and easily, and experiencing a look and feel that are not like anything I’ve experienced before. However, I also see that many of its features are similar to those on my old phone, redesigned in a much more innovative way. So although they’re not new, they do feel different and much more user-friendly.

Innovation requires us to see something completely differently. Once when I had trouble envisioning something, a friend had a suggestion: “Instead of seeing the sun as a ball in the sky that you know is a star emitting light, think about it as a hole into a completely new world that is completely light-filled.”

This changed perspective had a profound effect on me. If I thought of the sun in a completely different way, I would have to think about our solar system totally differently too. If the sun was a hole in the sky, then how would our planetary system revolve around it, and what would that mean? When I applied this same way of completely altering how I looked at something, I found that my creativity was sparked, and I felt anything was possible.

This kind of creative energy is a requirement for innovation. It’s the type of energy that allows us to sprout new ideas and plant them so they grow into new products and new ways of doing things.

Your challenge this week is to introduce something new into one of your endeavors. It can be as simple as redesigning a process that’s become stale and no longer works as well as it used to. Maybe you explore new ways of doing your art, craft or avocation. Try challenging your team to be more innovative by coming up with a new product idea or a better way of servicing your customers. Or ask your family members to create a completely different way for you to spend time together. Children are very creative in their thinking and can usually come up with innovative ways of doing things.

Last week, I saw a television segment about a man who invented a new kind of suitcase: a round tube. He travels a lot for business and noticed how many people get on planes with garment bags for their suits. He knew from his own experience that garment bags don’t prevent wrinkles. He also knew that when he rolled his clothes in a suitcase, they often came out much less wrinkled, and he could get a lot more into his suitcase. So he went to Home Depot, bought a piece of PVC pipe about 8–10 inches in diameter, added some velcro, and then rolled a suit into it. After two days, he took the suit out, and it was in great shape. He now manufactures rolled suitcases that are selling faster than he can make them!

Have a great, innovative week!


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