Let SPIKE Be Your Guide

Disclaimer: This was written before September 11. It is not meant to diminish the horror, but I don’t have words yet to discuss the tragedy.

Innovation doesn’t have to be painful. At Whitlock ebs, we believe that creativity and brainstorming are effective and differentiating factors in winning business. If you need to come up with more ideas to win business or help motivate your employees, SPIKE can help.

SPIKE means:

    Solicit ideas
    Push learning through the organization
    Innovate and involve
    Keep negativity away
    Enjoy your work

Let’s look at each part of SPIKE.

Solicit Ideas

Great ideas can come from anyone. Just because you don’t think of someone as a “creative” doesn’t mean he or she isn’t brimming with great ideas. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

It’s not about the Benjamins. Think about the best boss you ever had (I’ll wait). Were you thinking about how that boss made you feel or your salary? Do what you can to recreate that atmosphere at your office, and you’ll keep people working happily far longer than a good salary will.

Try swapping. Job swapping, that is. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. You’ll appreciate someone else’s plight, and you’ll have an ally for life. When a person actually performs someone else’s role, he or she gains a very quick, very deep understanding of what the other person deals with on a daily basis. And it’s another great way to look at a job with a fresh pair of eyes.

Push Learning Through the Organization

Reading is fundamental. Make the library part of your office. If you can’t afford to have a huge library full of the best business textbooks, get the books from the library and pass them around.

Start with these three:

  • “The Pursuit of WOW!” by Tom Peters
  • “If It Ain’t Broke… Break It” by Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler
  • “Information Anxiety 2” by Richard Saul Wurman

Gather ’round the campfire. Practice weekly reading. Pick something that is applicable to your business. It can be a book, magazine article, or idea. Lead a low-pressure (REPEAT: low-pressure) weekly meeting to discuss. The key is to put a premium on open discussion.

Innovate and Involve

Brainstorm. Brainstorming is an inexpensive, effective method to wring every great idea out of your employees. The benefits:

  • You get buy-in from the idea creators.
  • Your lowest-paid employee can become a hero.
  • People work harder when they’re the idea’s creator.

The law of large numbers. If you brainstorm and come up with 1,000 ideas, at least 5 have to be good. If you’re not spending time thinking about your business in a proactive manner, you’d better believe your competitor is. Regularly scheduled brainstorming sessions can open up new areas of business that you never even considered. As Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

Learning didn’t stop in college. Get out of the office, and learn something. Send your employees to a class, lecture series, or speech. It doesn’t have to be about what you’re interested in but what they’re interested in.

Create a buzz. You don’t have to spend a fortune to advertise your business. Learn the value of public relations, white papers, articles, and being a trusted source of information about your industry.

Take care of your best customers. When was the last time you personally visited your top five clients? Did you bring something cool with you or just yourself? Concert tickets, gift certificates, food, wine — all are always appreciated.

Now get really creative and take care of your best customers. What are you doing to create a partnership with your clients to make your company indispensable? A day-long offsite to brainstorm? Who wouldn’t love that? Now I wonder who could facilitate this… Hmm…

Look at your business like a 10-year-old would. If you don’t have a 10-year-old handy, ask people who have nothing to do with your business to tell you their impressions of your business. What do you stand for? What is your position in the marketplace? What does the competition do better?

Keep Negativity Away

Eeyore must die. Think about the most negative person in your office. Are you overcompensating for his or her negativity or working to change his or her behavior? One Eeyore can kill the will of even the best employees.

Creative constipation. The main reason that great ideas don’t go forward is the BIG 3:

  • “It’ll never get through management.”
  • “We’ve never done it that way before.”
  • “Here are 10 things that can go wrong.”

Be the bran and flush out these phrases from your company’s vocabulary.

Let’s have a meeting. Better yet, let’s not. If meetings are choking your day, make a change:

  • Send an agenda before the meeting. You might not need to meet after all.
  • Start on time. It’s unfair for everyone to have to wait for stragglers.
  • Start at odd times. Who could miss a 10:12 meeting?

Don’t think about purple elephants. If you’re not positive about your business, why should I be? If you work with customers and other employees all day, your mood directly affects others. Believe it.

Share your company knowledge. When you complete a project or implementation, do you share what you’ve learned with the rest of the company? Whether it’s good news or bad, tell the truth and let people know what’s going on. When people don’t have complete information, they make up their own. Quash rumors before they spread.

Enjoy Your Work

Get silly once in a while. I’m not talking about taking every Friday to go parasailing, but you can boost energy and morale with a few quick ideas:

  • Try an indoor golf tournament. We have one at Whitlock ebs, and it’s terrific. It’s a low-cost and low-maintenance morale booster.
  • Hire a bus to take a group of people somewhere fun, such as miniature golf or a movie.
  • Have a brown-bag lunch where someone shares vacation slides of a trip to China.

Talking is a good thing. Anything you can do to get people talking is a step in the right direction. Email is threatening to do away with personal conversations in the office. Make sure your company has plenty of “hanging around” space that fosters conversation.

My favorite quote of all time. “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.” –Howard Aiken

What do you think of SPIKE? Share your thoughts at stickyideas@hotmail.com.

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