8 Ways to Foster Innovation in Your Company

Foster Innovation

Creativity fosters innovation, but how can you ignite creative sparks within your organization? Inc.com compiled lessons on developing a vibrant research and development strategy.

To come up with their best new ideas, most companies turn to an inexpensive and efficient source of innovation: their own employees. How can you unleash the creative spirit lurking in your workforce? Here are eight of the best strategies we’ve uncovered in recent months.

1. Let Every Employee Play Designer.
Three years ago, the five-person research and development team at pet-accessory company West Paw Design had a case of collective writer’s block. A production manager named Seth Partain proposed holding a contest for the company’s three-dozen employees. Everyone from salespeople to seamstresses were encouraged to spend an afternoon designing and producing prototypes for new products. Following an end-of-day vote, a winner was crowned at an award ceremony. By making employees feel a part of the idea-creation process, West Paw Design set up a new pipeline of product development. [Read more…]

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The Sociopath In The Office Next Door

Davia Temin
Davia Temin

11/19/2010 – Davia Temin –
Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. [Read more…]

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How to Make Your Employees Smile

Paul Spiegelman
Paul Spiegelman

11/19/2010 – Paul Spiegelman –
Paul Spiegelman, the founder and CEO of Beryl, a call-center company in Bedford, Texas, has built a unique, people-centric culture, which he chronicled in the book, Why is Everyone Smiling? His next book, co-authored with Beryl employees, is titled Smile Guide: Employee Perspectives on Culture, Loyalty and Profit. Here, Spiegelman shares tips on how to keep your workers happy.

1. Give People a Voice
“Listen to what your employees say,” says Spiegelman. “And don’t just listen – implement the ideas that they have, and give them credit for those ideas. As entrepreneurs, we might in our gut know the right answers to certain questions, but it is often better to let workers tell you what the answers are and give them credit.” [Read more…]

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New Leaders: Find Your Poker Face or Perish

8/8/2010 – Shawn Graham –

For most of my adult life, I was incredibly easy to read. I wore my heart, and most of my facial expressions, on my sleeve. On occasion, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Other times, such as in my high school English class where the teacher threw note cards at me after I rolled my eyes, it was. Growing up I was never much of a card player so I didn’t have the chance to really develop and practice my poker face and that has, on more than one occasion, hampered my ability to successfully navigate organizational politics (or high school English classes). In speaking with other extroverts in leadership roles, those who struggle with filtering and/or masking their emotions and reactions often have a difficult time progressing through an organization. [Read more…]

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Sometimes Micromanaging Is Good–And Necessary

7/29/2010 – Christine M. Riordan –

Micromanage. A dreaded word. The dictionary defines it as “to direct or control in a detailed, often meddlesome manner.” Most popular management books call it something to avoid at all costs and give decisive tips on how not to do it.

As a professor of management, I often talk about empowering employees and avoiding micromanaging them. Sometimes very bad things happen when you micromanage your employees with too much attention to detail. [Read more…]

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Ten Signs of a Fear-Based Workplace

7/9/2010 – Liz Ryan –
Reigns of modest but palpable terror are making an unwelcome return at offices all over the country

The U.S. financial crisis has caused fear in the boardroom, and that unease trickles down to every worker. The principal signs of a fear-soaked senior leadership are a preoccupation with looking out for No. 1, a clampdown on consensus-building conversations, and the shunning or ousting of anyone so bold or naive as to tell the truth about what he or she believes. We’ve seen the fear epidemic hit dozens of major firms over the past few years, and it isn’t pretty. When a leadership team’s attention turns from “How can we do the right thing for our customers and employees?” to “How can we keep our stature, our jobs, and the status quo intact, at any cost?” then fear officially rules the roost. [Read more…]

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The 20 Most Important Questions In Business

6/17/2010 – Christopher Steiner and Brett Nelson –
Entrepreneurs can’t completely inoculate their businesses from the vagaries of the market. What they can do is wrestle with the fundamental questions that govern the fate of any enterprise. We’ve done our best to compile the 20 most important ones.

Digging for those answers is a grueling exercise–one that takes serious intellectual and emotional honesty. With any hope, the process begins long before money’s been spent, products are built and customers are lost. [Read more…]

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How Zappos Delivers Happiness

6/1/2010 – Gregory Ferenstein –

The funny thing about business books is that for many stories, there are countless counterexamples of management philosophies that are radically different, yet still successful. What is inspiring about Zappos.com, the world’s largest online shoe retailer, is that it is possible for a business to be founded on curiosity, built with friendship, and sustained with employee happiness. CEO Tony Hsieh’s (pronounced “shay”) retelling of the Zappos story in the upcoming Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose is a zippy, pleasant read about a business model that doesn’t compartmentalize labor and leisure.

Indeed, it appears that Zappos thrives in the most outrageous displays of its employees’ individuality. During tours of their head office, a potential client might see karaoke, a make-shift bowling alley, a petting zoo, or a napping worker. [Read more…]

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The Power Of Personal Passion

5/26/2010 – Eileen Gittins –
How entrepreneurs can turn what they love doing into successful businesses.

Most people think about their jobs as the thing they do, instead of the thing they get to do. When you can build a culture where people feel privileged instead of entitled, that’s magic. And that’s what the best Silicon Valley companies do: They tap into the power of personal passion. [Read more…]

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How to Succeed in Business by Really Listening

5/4/2010 – George J. Dennis –
TV Ears device
My company, TV Ears, specializes in sound. We manufacture TV listening products that have helped more than one million people hear the television more clearly. The idea came about after I tried to find something for my dad that would help him hear the TV. Nothing helped, so I created TV Ears in 1998. My father taught me that hearing is a privilege, and listening should never be taken for granted.

While developing the company, I learned a lot about listening along the way and it’s become the cornerstone of my management philosophy. When seeking inspiration, I look to the people around me – both our employees as well as folks that I run into at my local coffee shop or restaurant. They all have ideas and insights and are more than willing to share them to those who are willing to take note. I would submit that an executive’s greatest asset in growing their business is their ability to listen; the absence of doing so is akin to living in a bubble, where reality becomes a precious and elusive commodity. I would highly recommend other executives do the same. Here are some ways I’ve found to make this part of my leadership style. [Read more…]

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Basic Steps Toward Work-Life Balance

Forbes.com | by Helen Coster and Tara Weiss | 3/31/2010
For most people, juggling the demands of a career and a personal life is an ongoing challenge, especially at a time when many companies have slashed their ranks —and expect more from the survivors.

Achieving the elusive “work-life balance” can often feel like an impossible goal, especially for people who strive to give everything 100%. In today’s “do more with less” competitive reality, how can we manage careers and families, and feel satisfied with both? [Read more…]

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A Little Less Conversation

A Little Less Conversation
Inc.com | by Joel Spolsky | 2/1/2010
Have you ever invited employees to a meeting just so they wouldn’t feel left out? If so, you may be an overcommunicator.

When was the last time you scheduled a meeting and invited eight people instead of the three people who really needed to be there simply because you didn’t want anyone to feel left out?

When was the last time you sent a companywide e-mail that said something like, “Hey, attention coffee drinkers: If you finish the pot, make another!” even though there is actually only one person who violates this rule (and she’s your co-founder)? [Read more…]

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