As a business owner, you obviously want your company to perform as well as possible and, from time to time, you’ll come across a new idea or methodology which might benefit your business. But if you’re the only one who brings new ideas to the table, you’re not tapping into the richest resource in your organisation – the workforce.
The problem here is that many of your workers will be narrowly focused on their regular tasks.
Creative thinking can be limited by being too close to those tasks. What’s needed is some input from OUTSIDE the business – but from those INSIDE it.
The trick is to encourage employees to become more aware and more curious about things outside their work, which might in some way relate to the business. Imagine a 3-stage process:
- Observe something
- Reflect on it
- Draw meaning from it (a lesson learned)
Here’s a few examples of what I mean:
I watched Serena Williams getting beaten the other day at Wimbledon. This surprised all the pundits, especially after her run of 30+ matches undefeated.
It got me thinking – she'll probably learn more from losing that match than she has from all those months unbeaten. You learn more from your failures.
The business lesson
Let’s not create an environment where mistakes or failures are pounced upon and fingers are pointed.
We learn more from our failures, but you won’t fail at anything if you don’t try something new! Let’s encourage people to try things, to come up with new ideas and – if they don't work out – let’s learn and move on.
I went to a networking event recently in Manchester and parked in the city centre for what I thought was a reasonable fee. The entrance sign said £3.80 all day in very large letters. It turned out to be £3.80 for 2 hours and £12 for the day! I think I missed the ‘from’ before the £3.80…
It got me thinking – we’re attracted by catchy headlines, the stuff in big type.
The business lesson
When we type a memo or draft an email, we put relatively little effort into the headline. We focus on the body copy. Maybe we need to put more thought into attention-grabbing headlines, which have something in them for the reader.
I've just seen a nice piece on the BBC website.
When his mother accidentally fell down the stairs and lay unconscious, three-year old Taylor Price, from Coventry, had the presence of mind to call 999 on his mum’s phone and alert the police.
They traced his call, persuaded him to let them in, and the woman was treated successfully. The feature ends with the toddler chasing a policeman riding his bike in the park – the classic happy ending.
It got me thinking – it’s great PR for the police. Both the little boy and the police come across as heroes.
The business lesson
We need to capture every instance of where we’ve made a positive difference to our clients/customers. Some of these stories make great PR for the outside world – and it’s the small human interest stories that tend to have the greatest impact.
All these examples are common occurrences, and there are things like them happening all around us, each and every day. Some – like the 999 story – might come from a police officer WITHIN the organisation. Others might relate to experiences OUTSIDE work, but in each case, there's still a lesson to be learned internally.
By re-tuning your antennae to be more aware (more curious), you will find interesting things wherever you go. It's the Sir David Attenborough approach to work – get curious!
Sharing experiences can create terrific content for use in external marketing. But the value extends to driving best practice internally, and making employees feel better about their own contribution to the business. These mini-stories don’t need to be deeply insightful – it’s more important initially to get people talking, sharing and developing the awareness habit.
You also need a sharing mechanism – weekly huddles over coffee/pastries, intranets, newsletters, departmental story-sessions – to capture these nuggets, learn from them, and develop a collective knowledge vault.
If you can encourage your people to really open their eyes and ears to the world around them, you'll discover sales people and creative thinkers you never knew you had!