Foster Creativity and Innovation, Companies Told

Foster Creativity and Innovation, Companies Told

Creativity and innovation are two key elements that propel businesses to the top. Sadly, however, they are often missing in companies involved in the kitchen/bath and other industries, comments a leading business consultant whose client roster includes some of the best-known companies in the nation.

According to James Feldman, president of the Chicago-based James Feldman Associates, "Creative ideas are what turn ordinary companies into market leaders. These companies see the end result first and then build a path to achieve those results.

"Unfortunately, in most companies today, neither creativity nor innovation exists," Feldman observes. "The corporate environment fails to foster creative or innovative ideas, which results in lost profits and opportunities every day."

Feldman, whose company provides services in marketing, corporate motivation and problem-solving, advises business owners to answer the following four questions in order to learn if their company lacks the necessary creativity and innovation:

1. Are your profits stagnant or slowly rising at best?
2. Are your customers satisfied, but not very loyal?
3. Do your employees lack the enthusiasm to think of new ideas?
4. Are you selling the same products and services as you were five years ago?

"Any answer of 'yes' indicates that your business may not be around for the long-term," Feldman notes. He offers the following guidelines for avoiding that fate:

  • Foster a business climate that strives toward innovation and creativity.
    "Innovation is the ability to come up with ideas and solutions to pressing problems" Feldman says. "It is the process of producing something that 1) has value, and 2) did not exist before. Creativity is the ability to take that new idea and make it valuable in your customers' eyes.

    "Realize that every problem has a solution, even if the solution may not be in plain sight," Feldman adds. "To make the solution more apparent, remove 'standard operating procedures' when possible and inspire creative thinking throughout the organization. Use novel approaches, strive for dramatic results, and reach for the highest goal possible. Reward business associates for finding the 'innovative solution' and for thinking creatively."

  • Become "number one" with your clients.
    The more satisfied your clients are, the more business your company will have in the future, Feldman says. "Realize that the only commodity your clients know is you. "Since you are the catalyst providing the solution to their problem, you are accountable for fulfilling their needs. As a result, you need to invest time in continually keeping the channels of communication open," Feldman says.

    When communicating, Feldman adds, "Be sure to listen more than you talk. Ask questions that solicit more than a 'yes' or 'no' response, and then truly listen to clients' responses. Understand their needs, and then provide a solution that works for them.

    "Also, thank your clients for their business on a regular basis. A simple 'Thank you; are you happy with our products or service?' works wonders," he says. "The ability to communicate effectively could be the greatest innovation you have in your organization, since it's something few people have mastered."

  • Create a "partnership" with clients.
    All business transactions are based on someone delivering a promise to fulfill a specific desire or need, Feldman notes, adding that companies promoting their products or services, only to make the client wait on hold or have to redial numerous times to lodge complaints, erode the partnership.

    "To create a true partnership with clients, become a problem-solver," Feldman advises. "Clients like when the companies they work with function as thinkers. Become your clients' best solution and they'll stay with you for the long-term. Show your clients how they will look better, feel better, do their job better, or enjoy life better. Show them how you can save them money or time. Make the experience one in which clients realize their lives would be better with your product or service."

  • Create a partnership with employees.
    Asking people to be creative and then shooting down their ideas creates "a rift" in any company, Feldman points out. "Instead," he says, "show people that bringing their imagination on the journey is welcome. We must all become successive producers of ideas, concepts, and innovations. We must try them out to see if they work; if not, we will lose out to our competitors.

    "Remember that the more offbeat, the more diverse, the more eccentric, and the more unusual, the better we learn and the more we retain. So allow so-called 'mavericks' and their ideas into your organization, as they will likely offer a new perspective to the same old routine. Listen to your employees as you would your clients. Their insights will likely make your company better at what it does."