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Innovation and creativity are key to success

Innovation and creativity are different, but both are necessary for business success. Creativity refers to generating new and novel ideas whereas innovation refers to the application of ideas, and often is a collaborative effort. In other words, innovation is applied creativity.

Over the past years innovation and creativity have become critical skills for attaining success. Creative problem solving is a much needed and desired skill set for all jobs, but especially for manager positions. Having insight and being open minded has risen to being a required trait due to the increasing sets of problems and issues in business that necessitate suitable solutions.

There can be no innovation without creativity. New ideas and approaches can begin from influences of partners, spouses, customers, family members, friends, employees, etc. By listening to others, paying attention to people around you, new perspectives and ideas can be born. A company that is successful will encourage new ideas, feedback and suggestions from staff members. That is why a culture with an environment of open exchange of ideas should be encouraged and supported by the company.

Following are some ideas that can help your business, whether you are a retailer, wholesaler, manufacturer, vendor, large or small business or organization.

1. Hire the right people — Bringing the top talent into your organization is a challenge but hiring for innovation and creativity will pay off. Traits you should look for in people include imagination, inspiration, knowledge, boldness and persistence. These provide the tenacity to excel.

2. Provide a structured thought process — Structure is not the enemy of creative thinking but rather the fertile ground that aids in production of measurable results.

3. Encourage experimentation — Allow free thinking by recognizing and rewarding new ideas, whether they are adopted or not. Sponsor brainstorming sessions. Many ideas have to be brought forward and filtered through to find one that is viable and will work in the business.

4. Provide a forum for new ideas — Ensure the environment is not intimidating or limiting where people are afraid to submit new ideas. Develop a tolerance for mistakes and ideas that don’t work without having an expectation of failure.

5. Form diverse teams — All kinds of people, with varying backgrounds, are needed to offer different perspectives that will lead to success. Some people see a cloud in every silver lining where others are ideas stretchers. Both are needed for effective innovation processes, but it starts with the stretchers.

6. Maintain focus on the big picture — It is easy to get bogged down in day-to-day tasks and lose sight of the big picture. Staying focused on overall company goals is a leadership responsibility that will encourage other team members to follow suit.

7. Integrate new ideas into business plans — Not all new ideas will fit into the company’s business plan or be consistent with the culture of the company. It is the responsibility of leaders to identify new ideas that will fly and then be willing to assign resources that are necessary for development. The decision to integrate an idea into the business model can become an expensive matter but worth it if the new ideas will generate profits.

8. Be receptive to new ideas from employees at all levels — Often the newest staff members will spark innovation. The best ideas often come from employees on the line or in the trenches who are most familiar with the products or services. People who hang on to the philosophy of “We’ve always done it that way” will hold you back if you let them. Instead of asking “Why”, ask “Why not?”

Employees who have ownership in the business and are highly engaged will become the spark of innovativeness. It is contagious, like enthusiasm. This kind of culture will foster higher morale, greater employee retention, increased customer satisfaction and will ultimately result in a more profitable business that performs better than their competition over the long haul.

Becky Vaughn-Furlow retired from Trustmark Bank as executive vice president and human resources director. She can be contacted by emailing bvaughnfurlow@gmail.com.