Friday, April 20, 2012
Thursday, April 19, 2012
What is it?
The natural thing to do is the thing you have always done. Every time you approach a problem you bring your accumulated experience, knowledge and training to bear on it. But this includes your accumulated assumptions and biases, both conscious and unconscious. The more experienced you are, the more likely you are to assume outcomes by extrapolating from the known facts and experiences to predict a result. This mental baggage can prevent you from accepting innovative ideas. The best assumption to ever have is that any commonly held belief might be wrong.
According to the dictionary, out-of-the-box thinking is defined as "thinking that moves away in diverging directions so as to involve a variety of aspects and which sometimes lead to novel ideas and solutions; associated with creativity."
Thinking in-the-box means accepting the status quo. To in-the-box thinkers, an idea is but an idea and a solution is a solution. They can be quite obstinate when it comes to appreciating any idea and very rarely invest time to turn a second-rate solution into a brilliant solution. More importantly, in-the-box thinkers are skillful at assassinating originality. They are masters of the creativity-killing attitude trademarked by "that will never work." In-the-box thinkers believe that every problem needs only one solution and that finding more than one possible solution is a waste of time. They habitually cry, "There is no time for creative solutions. We just need the solution."
Creative people become in-the-box thinkers when they stop trying. Apathy and indifference can turn an innovator into an in-the-box thinker.
Thinking outside-the-box requires new ways of seeing the world and a willingness to explore. Out-of-the box thinkers know that new-fangled ideas need nurturing and support. They also know that having an idea is good but acting on it is more important. Results are what count.
Know that if you really get out-of-the-box, you will immediately become a high-profile player. Be sure you are ready for the game. Both the risks and the rewards will increase. You will be held to a higher level of accountability, and you will taste the rare ecstasy that comes only from not holding back.
Are you stuck thinking small? As the owner of a small business, you wear many hats. And in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of making sure orders get filled, customers get served and bills get paid, it’s all too easy to start thinking small.
Not too long ago, the conventional wisdom was that you needed to have a business plan that laid out your goals for one year, five years and ten years ahead. Having that type of plan forces you to think big. But in today’s fast-changing economy, that advice has changed too. Now, more often, entrepreneurs are advised to gear their plans in quarterly increments. You can think one or three years out, but planning five or 10 years out begins to feel like an exercise in wishful thinking when it’s hard to predict what technology, markets or opportunities will exist just months down the road.
Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to make plans that are set in stone. So I love that we’re no longer forced to plot out our every move for five or ten years from now. But thinking short-term can also lead to thinking small if you’re not able to see beyond what exists today. Responding nimbly to change requires being willing to think big and imagine what might be in one, three, five or ten years.
How can you keep yourself thinking big? Here are some tips.
1. Set aside thinking time. Just an hour a week to catch up on key reading and let the ideas percolate without interruption can bring big brainstorms. Take downtime, too, to meditate, exercise or whatever floats your boat and gets your creativity flowing.
2. Mix and mingle. Talking to people outside your industry can open your eyes to big ideas you might never have considered on your own. Just a quick coffee or lunch chat can spark lots of big plans.
3. Keep up on trends. Stay abreast of what’s new and notable in your industry, sure. But try to think beyond that by drawing trends out to their logical conclusion. For example, in the restaurant industry, food trucks are hot. How would food trucks go to the next level? What if other industries went mobile? What if food could be delivered digitally? What if restaurants disappeared? Let your imagination run wild.
4. Let money be no object. In reality, of course, your business goals are limited by your budget. But what would you do if you had unlimited funds? Envision your wildest business dream, write it down—and work from there. Maybe you can’t fund it all…but if you think big enough, you might find someone who will.
Thinking big attracts other big thinkers. Thinking small just keeps you where you are. Get help thinking big from the mentors at SCORE. If you don’t have a mentor yet, visit the SCORE website to get free small business counseling 24/7.
Monday, April 16, 2012
By: Dale W. Hutchings
In a constantly changing business world, where the old ways of marketing a business are quickly becoming obsolete, it is more important than ever for any size company to think out of the box in promoting its products or services. For many businesses this is easier said than done, especially when a culture has developed in the workplace where the main focus has been on production and hardly ever on marketing. This often leads to a mindset where new ideas are discouraged, doing things the way they have always been done is the norm, and taking the safe approach to doing business is expected and encouraged.
- 1.Look At Your Business From A Fresh Perspective. Put yourself “in the shoes” of a customer or potential customer. Ask yourself questions like: “Is this business doing a good job of letting me know about their products or services?” “Why should I do business with them instead of somebody else?” “What makes their products (or services) unique?” The answers to these questions will be a good first step to generating for you out of the box thinking.
- Encourage Creative Thinking. Are you always open to new ideas for marketing your business? If so, what have you done to encourage creative thinking in your workplace? In recent years, what new, out of the box marketing ideas have you introduced into your company that has changed the way your business presents itself? I could cite numerous examples of businesses that have failed (or are currently failing) for having this “in the box thinking” mentality. But rather than waste space pointing fingers at such companies, let’s address what you can do to create or enhance out of the box marketing thinking within your work environment to give you an edge over the competition.
Here are several easy steps to become an out-ofthe- box marketing thinker: If you are having a tough time coming up with answers, sorry, but you are not supporting the concept of creative thinking in your company. If you have employees, set-up a program that rewards them for coming up with great business marketing ideas. If you have a storefront or office that gets a lot of traffic, have a suggestion box where customers can offer their recommendations on what you might do to enhance business. If you are a single proprietor, seek out the advice of others. Organize your own brainstorming group with other business owners to help one another. Remember: no matter how big or small you are there is always a way to augment creative thinking in any business.
- Listen! Listen! Listen! Have an open ear. Listen to what employees have to say. Listen to what your customers are telling you. Listen to what your business colleagues suggest. Listen to experts in your industry in regards to business marketing trends. Seek out the advice of a professional marketing consultant and listen to what he or she has to say. As Writer/Poet Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”
- Think About How To Market Differently Than Your Competition. Take a serious look at how your competition markets and then ask yourself and/or your staff: “How can we market ourselves different from the competition?” “What can we do differently to set us apart?” “What kinds of business marketing tools or measures can we use that our competition isn’t?”
- Create A Physical Work Environment That Stimulates Creative Thinking. One of the best, easiest and most effective ways to achieve this is to hire a professional organizer. Individuals in this field are well versed on how to effectively organize. This includes knowing how to create an office or workplace environment to enhance creativity depending on a person’s habits and thinking process for stimulating thought. At no time in history has there been more advertising messages thrown at us on a daily basis than today. Therefore, to get people’s attention out of the box marketing is not merely important in doing business, but imperative. So don’t wait another minute, hour or day. Get to work now using these steps to begin beating out your competition with truly creative thinking, when it comes to marketing. The clock is ticking.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
“We become what we think about.” Earl Nightingale
Many of us who start businesses simply want to build something that will give us a degree of independence and support our families in a middle class lifestyle. Some of us simply don’t make great employees, and feel we could do it better than the folks we previously worked for. The start up phase of a business is such an obsessive undertaking that we can usually only focus on what is in front of us and the next few weeks ahead. But if the business survives, the day comes when we lift our gaze from the near term goals and are forced to think in terms of bigger dreams and how ambitious we might dare to be.
What if your dream takes a turn that points toward being much larger. At Harvard Business School they have a term “BHAG” which is big, hairy, audacious goals. In his article “In Praise of Positive Obsessions,” creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD describes positive obsessions as "insistent, recurrent thoughts or sets of thoughts, pressurized in feel, that are extremely difficult to ignore, that compel one to act, and that connect to one’s goals and values as an active meaning-maker and authentic human being."
There is reward and satisfaction in big thinking but it is so easy to forget when you hit the inevitable rough spots in building your dream. The lesson from Mr. Silbergeld or Mr. Murdoch really amounts to not letting the ever present challenges shrink your thinking. The German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said it so well. “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic to it.”