Buy the Book!



In spite of the volatile nature of conducting business in today’s global environment, there is an inherent consistency that earmarks the start of a growth cycle. Business strives for a certain predictability that allows it to become efficient and effective at the use of its resources. The downside of such an achievement is the unintentional lack of support for new ideas. This is an ongoing irony since the very lifeblood of business is found in the support and pursuit of ideas. All businesses go through a fractured, frenzied, chaotic, shoot-from-the-hip, try-anything, start cycle. If it actually survives that phase and moves to actual market penetration, customer response and profit, a funny thing happens. The business runs the risk of becoming victimized by its own success. As the story is often told, back in the 1950’s a CEO of an Airplane Propeller manufacturing company was asked his opinion of jet engines. His response was “The engines are too noisy, they burn too much fuel and, besides, we’re in the airplane propeller business.” So, the fate of his company was sealed the moment he locked onto the one idea that had determined his success. It is a predictable pattern that has sedated many businesses into a comfortable coma. The ultimate awakening is the recognition that your business has been out of it for a while and there is no recovery (remember Ollie Fretter and Highland Appliance?).

While the understandable need for internal predictability is essential to driving the engine of any successful business, the real challenge lies in not allowing that predictability to blind the business to new ideas. Rather than rest on the supposed laurels that comes with being the best dry-cleaning business in the area or the largest software developer, business must commit itself to fostering an ongoing ‘workplace of ideas’ in order to reap the full benefits of talented employees. Businesses such as 3M and the W.L. Gore Company have integrated the ‘workplace of ideas’ concept into their culture in ways that allow them to maintain their competitive edge. Sometimes the real secret lies in playing the ‘What if’ game to inspire creativity.
What if your department sponsored a once a month ‘lunch, munch and hunch’ session where the department springs for soup and sandwiches for its employees and during that hour, employees are asked to engage in an ideas free-for-all about any aspect of the business that can be improved?
What if company sponsored sports teams (baseball, basketball, track, golf) were actually composed of employees from different departments so as to increase the likelihood that a cross fertilization of ideas will materialize?
What if ‘passive productivity’ Fridays were replaced with dedicated time to engage in an ‘informal walk and talk about ideas’ with employees beyond your cubed culture?
What if we designed our work environments so the flow of ideas is primarily inward to organizational resources instead of outward to rarely being fulfilled?

As much as the demands of building a business can divert the use of limited resources, ideas are a resource that organizations have in abundance.
During the latter half of the 19th century, the Director of the U.S. Patent office, in what some would describe as a moment of organizational clarity, sent a memo to the President of the United States, directing him to shut down the Patent office because, “All that can be invented, has been invented.” In 2004, over 600,000 patent and new trademark ideas were filed. His memo was a little premature.


© 2013 Lee E. Meadows
Website Design by