Peter Drucker once was quoted: Within five years, if you’re in the same business you are in now, you’re going to be out of business. Your success with building a change and adaptability culture in your business depends not only on coming up with great ideas and making them happen, but also with establishing the culture with employees. No business attribute is more important today as that of adaptability, as many, many businesses are on the brink of irrelevance … unless they change as fast as change itself. You need to have and try many creative business ideas as often as possible … take to heart what Peter Drucker had to say in the quote shown above. That is why this needs to be a part of the culture of your business.
Check out our thoughts on building innovation.
It’s also important to recognize that culture comes from the people—it is the people. Think about the individuals within your organization—what are their personalities like? Who are they outside of work? What tickles their fancy? All of these things lend to the culture of your organization, and ultimately your products
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We live in a business world accelerating at a dizzying speed and teeming with ruthless competition. As most of the tangible advantages of the past have become commoditized, creativity has become the currency of success. A 2010 study of 1,500 CEOs indicated that leaders rank creativity as No. 1 leadership attribute needed for prosperity. It’s the one thing that can’t be outsourced; the one thing that’s the lifeblood of sustainable competitive advantage.
Unfortunately, most companies fail to unleash their most valuable resources: human creativity, imagination, and original thinking. They lack a systematic approach to building a culture of innovation, and then wonder why they keep getting beaten to the punch.
Creative change and adaptability could become the main strengths of your company and the pillars of its long term growth and success.
Here are some useful tips on how to help move toward a change and adaptability culture in your business:
Encourage curious, imaginative minds
We are big believers in change and adaptation. They contribute heavily to creative minds. We’re first curious about something, and it’s that curiosity that drives us to create new ideas. Try to think of inventors who created something without first being curious or imaginative. Difficult isn’t it?
Create spirit of collaboration
Your employees should feel like members of one big family. They are the biggest assets of your business.
Creativity doesn’t often happen in a vacuum. As the author Steve Johnson says, chance favors the connected minds. When people are together, talking, laughing, thinking, exploring — they’re going to throw out ideas. These ideas trigger something in someone else’s mind, and it snowballs. Before long, this group of folks has developed a creative change that wouldn’t have been possible without the collective collaboration.
Don’t fall prey to the myth that only some people are adaptable and you’re not one of the chosen few. We are all adaptable; it’s just a matter of figuring out in what way. So find things you’re curious about and that are interesting to you, use your imagination a little, stay motivated and work at it, and surround yourself with others who are doing the same.
Creativity drives change and adaptability and can be taught. There are many courses that teach people different creative techniques. Give your employees opportunity to acquire skills that will help them become more productive and proficient in what they are doing.
Encourage new ideas to flourish
People should be encouraged and inspired to openly and freely share ideas for change. There should be no censorship in the creative process and in ideas for change. Welcome everyone to contribute with their ideas for improving, from the couriers and drivers to the top managers.
Adaptability … maximize diversity
Ziba, a top innovation-consulting firm in Portland, has an “Ambassador Program,” which allows employees to spend three months working in other disciplines, known as “tribes.” During that time, the ambassador team member participates as part of those teams. This helps to create an understanding of another world. That diversity of thought and perspective, in turn, fuels connection and adaptability. It also translates to better business results.
Diversity in all its shapes, colors, and flavors helps build a culture of change. Diversity of people and thought; diversity of work experiences, religions, nationalities, hobbies, political beliefs, races, sexual preference, age, musical tastes, and even favorite sports teams. The more diversity the better.
Adaptability in business … encourage autonomy
We all prefer control over our environments. According to a 2008 study by Harvard University, there is a direct correlation between people who have the ability to call their own shots, and the value of their change and adaptability. An employee who has to run every tiny detail by her boss for approval will quickly become numb to the environment of change.
Granting autonomy involves extending trust. By definition, your team may make decisions you would have made differently. The key is to provide a clear message of what results you are looking for or what problem you want the team to solve. From there, you need to extend trust and let them do their best work.
ITW is a diversified manufacturing company that produces a wide array of products from industrial packaging to power systems and electronics to food equipment to construction products. It is a highly profitable company nearly 100 years old. Yet this big, old company, which is nestled in a traditional industry, thinks small.
The leaders at ITW believe that being nimble, hungry, and entrepreneurial are the ingredients for business success. As a result, any time a business unit reaches $200 million in revenue, the division “mutates” into two $100 million units. Like an amoeba, the unit subdivides so it stays hungry and nimble. The company would rather have 10 independently run and innovative $100 million units than a single, bureaucratic, and clunky $1 billion unit. Guess what? It’s a great environment of change and adaptation.
Companies that can stay more curious and nimble, have a better ability to change and adapt more easily. They have a stronger sense of urgency and are not afraid to embrace change. They put their curiosity, imagination, and creativity to work
Adaptability skills … motivate by sharing
Most of the time, you’ve got to want to be adaptable to be adaptable. You’ve got to work at change to be able to change.
But every once in a while someone will walk into my office, look around at the walls and ask how I came up with some of the ideas. Or we’ll be in a meeting and something will click for me as I’m scribbling in my little black notebook.
What most people don’t know is that I actually work on it. Yes and I actually practice. I think people think you’ve either got it or you don’t, but I think everyone adapts in their own way.
So I started doing things to challenge myself to change. Sometimes they were business-related. Other times they weren’t. And now I have an arsenal of things that I do on a regular basis to stretch my mind. It’s trying to make creative thinking and practice a consistent habit.
Passion starts with leaders
Believe in what you preach. Give yourself 100% to the cause. Be honest if you want to be accepted. Lead by providing the example. Do not just lead – inspire!
With a team full of passion, you can accomplish just about anything. Without it, your employees become mere clock-punching automatons.
Celebrate even small successes
Social norms in any culture are established by what is celebrated and what is punished. Consider more narrowly how they function within an institution. Nearly every business’s mission statement includes words about “innovation,” yet risk-taking and change are often punished instead of rewarded. Rewards come in many forms, and often the monetary ones are the least important.
Celebrating change and adaptation is not only about handing out bonus checks for great ideas—although that is a good start. It should also be celebrated with praise (both public and private), career opportunities, and perks. In short, if you want your team to be creative, you need to establish an environment that celebrating their successes.
Foster risk taking
Zappos as a company is known as much for its culture as for its innovative business model. The company has built a business that is growing rapidly by allowing individuals the freedom to take creative risks without that overwhelming sense of fear or judgment. They tell their employees to say what you think, even if it is controversial. Make tough decisions without agonizing excessively. Take smart risks. Question actions inconsistent with our values.
Another interesting example: A software company in Boston gives each team member two “corporate get-out-of-jail-free” cards each year. The cards allow the holder to take risks and suffer no repercussions for mistakes associated with them. At annual reviews, leaders question their team members if the cards are not used. It is a great way to encourage risk taking and experimentation. Think this company comes up with amazing ideas? Absolutely.
Foster a change climate
Always look for alternatives, improvements, and non-standard ways of solving problems. Many of ideas that your team will come up with will be unfit, some of them will be excellent and a few will be brilliant. Sometimes one brilliant idea is all it takes to make huge business success.
Readily accept mistakes and failure
There is no success without failure. Ask any successful person and they will confirm that they have failed in life but that their failures made them stronger and even more determined to go on. It is perfectly OK to fail as long as we learn from our own mistakes. Your employees should not fear failure because it will kill their desire to create new and unusual ideas.
In many companies, people are so afraid of making mistakes that they don’t pursue their dreams. The simply follow the rules and keep their heads down, which drives nothing but mediocrity.
James Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson Vacuum cleaner, “failed” at more than 5,100 prototypes before getting it just right. In fact, nearly every breakthrough innovation in history came after countless setbacks, mistakes, and “failures.” The great innovators and achievers weren’t necessarily smarter or inherently more talented. They simply released their fear of failure and kept trying. They didn’t let setbacks or misfires extinguish their curiosity, imagination, and ability to change.
Failing means taking risks and increasing the rate of experimentation… and exploring. Some bets will pay off; some will fail. The key is to fail quickly. The speed of business has increased dramatically and every minute counts. The best businesses try lots of ideas and let the losers go quickly and with no remorse.
As you can see, some of these ideas do not take much time and money to implement. Start from small and transform your company step by step. Creating a change and adaptation culture is a process that takes time, but as the first creative ideas become reality, and the first results show up, both you and your employees will appreciate the positive effects.
So what’s the conclusion? The conclusion is there is no conclusion. There is only the next step. And that next step is completely up to you. But believe in the effectiveness of collaborative innovation. And put it to good use in adapting to changes in your business environment.
It’s up to you to keep improving your learning and experience with adaptability, change, innovation and creativity efforts. Lessons are all around you. In this case, your competitor may be providing the ideas and or inspiration. But the key is in knowing that it is within you already.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new lessons.
When things go wrong, what’s most important is your next step.
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All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new ideas.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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