2010: The Year of Spontaneous Innovation

“I may safely predict that the education of the future will be inventive-minded.  It will believe so profoundly in the high value of the inv
January 13, 2010

“I may safely predict that the education of the future will be inventive-minded.  It will believe so profoundly in the high value of the inventive or creative spirit that it will set itself to develop that spirit by all means within its power.” ~ Harry A. Overstreet

As we go forward into a brand new year, think carefully about your strategy for innovation in your business.  The genesis of every new product, business or service offering is a concept: an idea for something you believe people want and will buy at a price they can afford to pay you for the work needed to produce it.  Concepts can arise out of anything at any time.  I think of it as spontaneous innovation, which occurs in every aspect of our lives.  Some might refer to it as spontaneous expression, and it’s typically a moment that can’t be repeated easily.  Here are four examples.

1. As a top finance executive, you attend your company’s holiday party. You’re having a fabulous time when, out of nowhere, the host turns to you and asks that you get up on the stage to give an impromptu year-end toast to 300+ people who are feeling no pain.

You get up confidently, smile brightly, hold up your glass and say, “Horace Rutledge once said, ‘When you look at the world in a narrow way, how narrow it seems!  When you look at it in a mean way, how mean it is!  When you look at it selfishly, how selfish it is!  But when you look at it in a broad, generous, friendly spirit, what wonderful people you find in it.’  That’s how I feel about all of you.  Best wishes for a spirited new year!”  Everyone applauds like mad and comes over to pat you on the back to say what a great job you did.  

2. As a salesperson, you are finishing up a stellar presentation pitching a brand new killer software application on your laptop. Just as you get to the most important part — the close — the application freezes in front of what could become your biggest client.

You hit the escape button on the laptop and restart the computer.  As you wait for the presentation to come back up, you tell a quick story about how your 3-year-old daughter saved an 85-year-old person from getting hit by a bus. You click to the last slide and say, “See how easy it is to recover lost data?  Here are four ways to benefit from this application.”

3. As an event planner, you are awaiting the arrival of the much anticipated keynote speaker at a business conference of 5,000 attendees who each shelled out $2,500 to learn their life’s purpose.  When you glance at your iPhone, there is a message from the scheduled speaker:  “Flight canceled.  Can’t make it.  Sorry.” 

With uncommon valor, you go up to the microphone and announce enthusiastically to the attendees that due to uncontrollable circumstances, the scheduled keynote speaker cannot make it, but in her absence, “we have a backup plan that is even more exciting.  We ask that the first three rows of seated attendees (you now use a trusty long-range emergency flashlight and scan it selectively across all of the faces of the folks while talking) — all 50 people — come up to the stage for a powerful experience.”  Then you say that each of them will have an opportunity at the microphone to share their life passion and ask the audience two key questions related to their passion.  They are in search of answers … that’s why they came! 

4. As a new product idea person, a colleague in a brainstorming session says, “Blue is the color!  It is soothing, calming and peaceful yet speaks loudly of trust.  We want people to trust us that our toothbrush will do a good job cleaning their teeth.”

You spontaneously say, “If we want consumers’ teeth cleaned well and assertively by the user, the new toothbrush color has to be red.  There is no other color that stands up to red, so red it should be!”

To profit and prosper in the year 2010, think on your feet, look for fresh conceptual insights all around you and practice a little spontaneous innovation (expression).  It can foster a climate in which we can make a difference and have an innovative impact within an organization. 

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Global business expert Laurel Delaney is the founder of GlobeTrade.com (a Global TradeSource, Ltd. company).  She also is the creator of “Borderbuster,” an e-newsletter, and The Global Small Business Blog (http://borderbuster.blogspot.com), all highly regarded for their global small business coverage.  You can reach Delaney at ldelaney@globetrade.com or follow her on Twitter @LaurelDelaney.