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Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

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Hewlett-Packard Company co-founders David Packard (seated) and William Hewlett run final production tests on a shipment of the 200A audio oscillator. The picture was taken in 1939 in the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California, where they began their business.  Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard/Newsmakers

Hewlett-Packard Company co-founders David Packard (seated) and William Hewlett run final production tests on a shipment of the 200A audio oscillator. The picture was taken in 1939 in the garage at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California, where they began their business.
Photo courtesy of Hewlett-Packard/Newsmakers

Effective leaders are the key influence in bringing about innovation and opportunity. Their search for ways to advance and grow the organization takes them far beyond the traditional structures, methods and concepts that have worked in the past. In today’s fast-paced market climate, empowering members to test new approaches and ideas is critical. This creates the innovation, creativity and opportunity needed to drive change.

The forces of change come from both inside and outside the organization: customers are the source of demand for product and service innovation; process innovation generally comes from within the organization itself and through its employee members. There are definite factors needed to create the innovation—in essence a willingness to break from past methods—to effect positive change and incremental transformations.

A major function of the leader’s role is to stimulate innovation and creativity, to bring about incremental transformations that improve an organization’s products, services and overall quality. This is necessary in order to meet both external and internal customer needs. Accomplishing this is done through developing an empowered environment that instills and reinforces innovation.

In order to create an environment conducive to the full empowerment of its members, leaders must depend on consistently influencing others while keeping all communication channels between units, divisions and upper management open. Leaders realize that employees doing the frontline work are the best resource to utilize in designing more effective processes, generating creative ideas and quality improvement concepts, and implementing the best solutions to overcome inefficiencies.

Only when employees take an active role will creative innovations, new ideas, processes, services and product improvements consistently flow within and out of the organization. Whether this state is successfully attained or not depends on whether leaders acknowledge the factors generating imagination, resourcefulness and risk taking in their employees.

There are three chief characteristics of an environment supportive of innovation, creativity and risk taking. Successful establishment of this environment is dependent upon leaders building recognition of these factors. They include:

Experimentation and Breaking Away from Constraints

Leaders are experimenters by nature. However, they need to instill this desire in employees to experiment with new approaches to old problems, to accept the challenge of trial and error. Throughout this process, leaders actively help employees remove the barriers to creativity and innovation by identifying and breaking down self-imposed constraints on personal perceptions, thinking habits and patterns.

Outsight and Insight

Because innovation depends upon creative ideas—most of them coming from outside general conventional thinking—innovation within an empowered environment depends heavily on what is referred to as “outsight.” Outsight is the ability to perceive external realities. It is the necessary forerunner to insight, or the ability to apprehend the inner nature of things. An awareness and understanding of outsight forces comes through openness and flexibility. It is up to leaders to open the doors to the world beyond conventional boundaries and expose employees to a broader spectrum of situations, problems and concerns.

Developing a ‘Hardiness Factor’

Uncertainty and risk are part of the price both leaders and employees pay for being innovative. Leaders generally thrive on uncertainty and risk, but it is often another matter for employees. To overcome feelings of insecurity in regard to these two areas, the question becomes, “How do employees within the organizational unit learn to accept the inevitable failures and accompanying stress of creative innovation and the circumstances surrounding it?” The answer rests in cultivating a sense of hardiness and resilience.

When a healthy sense of hardiness reveals itself, it will be observed through actions and beliefs mirroring the sentiment that “uncertainty and risk are more interesting than being fearful.” Employees know they do have a definite influence on specific outcomes, which motivates rather than intimidates. They see uncertainty and risk as opportunity.

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Creating a Culture of Innovation

with 4 comments

Effective leaders are the key influence in bringing about innovation and opportunity. Their search for ways to advance and grow the organization takes them far beyond the traditional structures, methods and concepts that have worked in the past. In today’s fast-paced market climate, empowering members to test new approaches and ideas is critical. This creates the innovation, creativity and opportunity needed to drive change.

The forces of change come from both inside and outside the organization: customers are the source of demand for product and service innovation; process innovation generally comes from within the organization itself and through its employee members. There are definite factors needed to create the innovation—in essence a willingness to break from past methods—to effect positive change and incremental transformations.

A major function of the leader’s role is to stimulate innovation and creativity, to bring about incremental transformations that improve an organization’s products, services and overall quality. This is necessary in order to meet both external and internal customer needs. Accomplishing this is done through developing an empowered environment that instills and reinforces innovation.

In order to create an environment conducive to the full empowerment of its members, leaders must depend on consistently influencing others while keeping all communication channels between units, divisions and upper management open. Leaders realize that employees doing the frontline work are the best resource to utilize in designing more effective processes, generating creative ideas and quality improvement concepts, and implementing the best solutions to overcome inefficiencies.

Only when employees take an active role will creative innovations, new ideas, processes, services and product improvements consistently flow within and out of the organization. Whether this state is successfully attained or not depends on whether leaders acknowledge the factors generating imagination, resourcefulness and risk taking in their employees.

There are three chief characteristics of an environment supportive of innovation, creativity and risk taking. Successful establishment of this environment is dependent upon leaders building recognition of these factors. They include:

Experimentation and Breaking Away from Constraints

Leaders are experimenters by nature. However, they need to instill this desire in employees to experiment with new approaches to old problems, to accept the challenge of trial and error. Throughout this process, leaders actively help employees remove the barriers to creativity and innovation by identifying and breaking down self-imposed constraints on personal perceptions, thinking habits and patterns.

Outsight and Insight

Because innovation depends upon creative ideas—most of them coming from outside general conventional thinking—innovation within an empowered environment depends heavily on what is referred to as “outsight.” Outsight is the ability to perceive external realities. It is the necessary forerunner to insight, or the ability to apprehend the inner nature of things. An awareness and understanding of outsight forces comes through openness and flexibility. It is up to leaders to open the doors to the world beyond conventional boundaries and expose employees to a broader spectrum of situations, problems and concerns.

Developing a ‘Hardiness Factor’

Uncertainty and risk are part of the price both leaders and employees pay for being innovative. Leaders generally thrive on uncertainty and risk, but it is often another matter for employees. To overcome feelings of insecurity in regard to these two areas, the question becomes, “How do employees within the organizational unit learn to accept the inevitable failures and accompanying stress of creative innovation and the circumstances surrounding it?” The answer rests in cultivating a sense of hardiness and resilience.

When a healthy sense of hardiness reveals itself, it will be observed through actions and beliefs mirroring the sentiment that “uncertainty and risk are more interesting than being fearful.” Employees know they do have a definite influence on specific outcomes, which motivates rather than intimidates. They see uncertainty and risk as opportunity.

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Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

March 8, 2012 at 11:21 am

Why New Ideas Trigger a Competitive Advantage?

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Many effective leaders possess strong creative, innovative and entrepreneurial instincts. Their minds are always keenly open to new ideas, insights and possibilities, which triggers a strong competitive advantage. They have a sense of urgency, if not a bit of paranoia, about their competition. They are always looking back over their shoulders to ensure their competitors aren’t catching up with them. King Gillette (Gillette) was seeking a new disposable product, like the bottle caps he was selling before he developed the safety razor. Howard Schultz (Starbucks) saw the immediate possibilities for his future chain, when he first entered the first Starbucks, which he ultimately purchased. Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) had the same epiphany when he first saw the innovative restaurant designs created by the McDonald brothers.

Despite identifying and investigating new possibilities, nothing came easy. While everything starts with an idea, it takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears to evolve ideas into a profitable concept. Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn) observed, “Sometimes, the first step is the hardest – coming up with an idea. Such a concept should be like sitting on a pin – it should make you jump up and do something. I have had a great many ideas over the years. Some were good, others were great, and some I would prefer to forget about. The important thing is to take your best ideas and see them through. Not all of them are going to be winners, but remember, people who succeed may have been counted out many times before. They win because they refuse to give up.” [1]

Fred Smith (FedEx) explains the challenges many leaders experience when investigating and implementing new ideas. “The problem always comes in big companies, particularly ones that are extremely disciplined on the quantitative side, that most innovation doesn’t look like it makes much financial sense when you’re right in the middle of battle – it looks like you never should have done it. It’s only when it’s been done and it’s out there that everybody says, ‘Oh, but of course, that was easy.’ Then the money starts flowing in and you become a very big deal, and it all looks very logical.” [2]

Generating ideas is one thing. The implementation and execution of ideas is altogether another. Kroc had sold mixing machines for many years before he opened his first restaurant. He already possessed the knowledge of what successfully worked in the restaurant business. Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) looked for new ideas his entire life. “In his early career, he read an article about how two stores in Minnesota had gone to self-service, which nobody else was doing. Customers picked out their own stuff and checked out at the cash registers at the front of the store. So he rode the bus all night to visit the stores, liked what they were doing, and changed his store to self-service.” [3]

Montgomery Ward (Montgomery Ward) observed and investigated possibilities as a traveling salesman. “In tedious rounds of train trips to southern communities… listening to the complaints of the back-country proprietors and their rural customers, he conceived a new merchandising technique: direct mail sales to country people…

Ward shaped a plan to buy goods at low cost for cash. By eliminating intermediaries, with their markups and commissions, and drastically cutting selling costs, he could sell goods to people, however remote, at appealing prices. He then invited them to send their orders by mail and delivered the purchases to their nearest railroad station.” [4]

Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank (Home Depot) continually investigated new possibilities to continually change and transform their business. “On a regular basis, they embark on ‘road shows,’ during which they make unscheduled visits to Home Depot stores across the country. ‘Over the years, these road shows have changed the way we merchandise products, because Bernie and I re-learn our business firsthand from the people on the store floor… Associates know more about the products and what the customers are looking for than we do. It is a learning experience and an opportunity to change.’” [5]

[1] Wilson Kemmons, What Accounts for Success? (USA Today, September 1997)
[2] Federal Express’s Fred Smith (Inc. Magazine, October 1, 1986)
[3] Walton Sam, Made in America. A Money Book Summary (character-education.info)
[4] Kim Ann, Montgomery Ward. The World’s First Mail-Order Business (Illinois History, April 2000)
[5] Bernie Marcus & Arthur Blank. Do It Yourselfer’s Best Friends (Entrepreneur Magazine, October 10, 2008)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great. What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the innovative thinking of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills. Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz All Rights Reserved

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