Expert Advice

By Hannah Wallace February 28, 2006

Q. I'm noticing that creative clusters and organizations have been formed by economic development councils and chambers of commerce throughout Tampa Bay. What's the relevance of creativity to business and how can my own business become more innovative?

Celia Szelwach, president of Creative Collaborations Consulting in Bradenton, answers: When you think about consumer demand for the Apple iPod or Starbuck's coffee, the relevance is clear-creativity results in profitable innovations that add significant value. These organizations recognize customers will pay more for positive experiences. How do your customers perceive your products and services: "Been there, done that" or "Wow!"

In working with clients, the major barrier to innovation is resistance to change. To reduce this resistance, I recommend several strategies:

Encourage prudent risk-taking and experimentation. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Do something different and beat your competitors to market by solving problems frustrating your customers. List outrageous uses for your product or service, and don't judge them until you've run out of ideas.

Engage in imaginative activities and free play. I encourage workshop participants to exercise their minds with unusual activities like Story Collage, journaling, building Lego castles and group problem solving. Participants then share their learning and applications to business.

Energize your team with fresh experiences. Innovation isn't only for technology firms; any industry can be creative and deliver value. Visit the Ringling Museum of Art or hold a meeting at G. WIZ.

Establish a culture of innovation free from judgment and fear. Employees limit their creativity because of "what the boss or co-workers might think." Eliminate fear and unleash employee potential!

Emplace processes and systems for implementing innovative solutions. These go beyond the old suggestion boxes and involve a method for evaluating and implementing good ideas and sharing them across the organization as lessons learned and best practices.

Celia Szelwach can be reached at (941) 795-0928, or [email protected]

Q. We're a tight-knit team in our retail operation, but two of our employees have had a falling out that's affecting everyone's morale. What's the best way to handle this?

James Rollo, president of Competitive Advantage Consulting, weighs in: Interpersonal conflicts are common in any team. These conflicts could be due to personality differences, competition, power struggle or different ways of approaching work. In this situation, the team leader should meet separately with each of the individuals in conflict to express concerns about the impact the conflict is having on work and team morale. The leader does not take sides or try to "fix" the problem; rather, he or she gains the commitment of both parties to have a joint meeting to talk through the causes of the conflict and possible ways to resolve differences.

The leader facilitates a discussion of the impact the conflict is having on work, on others and on the team members in conflict. He or she helps them analyze the causes of the conflict, asks each person what he or she needs to let go of in order to resolve the matter (feelings or past experiences, for example) and engages the two team members in generating alternatives for solutions. The team leader then helps them prioritize the alternatives and selects two or three key actions both will take to resolve differences.

A follow-up meeting should be held within two weeks to assess progress.

James Rollo can be reached at (941) 346-1098 or [email protected]

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