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Mice Net : June 2009
creative essentials Story By NIGEL COLLIN what’s your revolutionary idea? A s a young lad many, many years ago when I worked for retailer Grace Bros during the school holidays I won a competition called “is your voice smiling”. It was a clever idea really because it got the staff answering the phone in a bright and chirpy way, which in turn engaged their customers more than the usual lethargic “how can I help you?” Recently this part of my life came full circle, which happens a lot at my age, when I was working with a client on their strategic plan for the year and we were looking at creative ways to better engage their clients. What came up was new and different ways to answer the phone. Now you may be wondering what answering a phone has to do with revolutionary ideas? Isn’t being creative in business all about coming up with the next iPod, Post it note or electric light bulb? When we think of creative companies we tend to think of those creative juggernauts such as Apple, 3M and Google who come up with breakthrough or “big bang” ideas and create products and services that change the world. And iPod is one of those because it didn’t just change the way we listen to music, it also changed how we bring music into our lives. It’s sexy, fun, colourful, and individual. It isn’t just about music - it’s about lifestyle. Then just add iTunes, iMovies, and iPhone and the rest of it, and what you have is an outstanding business model of collaboration and product evolution. I know you’ve heard it before because everybody goes on about iPod as a pinnacle example of creativity and innovation and there’s a very good reason for that. IPod is revolutionary. But it is also true that many ideas - in fact most - are not “big bang” at all but quite the opposite. Let’s call them small jolts. These are ideas that seem insignificant or small in comparison to the iPod. They may be totally new or an evolution of an existing idea; perhaps they are the combination of numerous ideas, or a slight tweak of a product or process already in place, (something on face value as trivial as answering the phone perhaps). But these small jolts of ideas often cause ripples and have a huge effect. Take Toyota for instance. Here’s a company that is at the forefront of innovation and according to Sanjay Dalal of The Innovation 120 mice.net When it comes to being creative small ideas can make huge differences. Index Group, has more than 2500 ideas per day! Toyota is a champion of a relentless pursuit of perfection - little things making a big difference. So which ideas will make more of a difference to your business? Big bangs or small jolts? Which are more revolutionary? Well for me it has nothing to do with big or small because a revolutionary idea is one that adds value to your business and moves you forward. It drives growth, provides real workable solutions to a problem, or creates an opportunity. The reason for bringing up the whole big verses small issue at all is to illustrate that so often we get obsessed trying to find that one big idea that will catapult us to fame and fortune that we fail to see or create the smaller ones which may actually be the gold. It isn’t always about the next iPod. In fact a big bang idea may be worth striving for and can certainly pay big dividends but with it comes a price. Big bang ideas often need years of research, development and funding to get up and running. The truth is successful big bang ideas are few and far between because an idea is one thing but you have to implement it. In today’s world we need ideas that make a real difference in the short term as well as long term. I’m not saying don’t go for the big breakthrough idea – far from it – but what I am saying is don’t miss a big opportunity by neglecting the small ones. The lesson here is to stay focused on revolutionary ideas whether big or small. So next time you get the team together and blue-sky a range of ideas to improve your bottom line, why not look at all the little things you do, and maybe those you don’t, and find creative ways to revolutionize them. Whether it’s looking at better ways of pitching a project, new marketing channels, streamlining procedures, or finding better ways to engage your client when they phone you, small jolts may be just the answer. Nigel helps companies and their people be more creative through his ‘funnelvision’™ workshops, keynotes and consulting and is author of ‘Think BITS’. More information can be found at www.nigelcollin. com.au or contact Nigel at email@example.com