Tag Archives | efficiency

Unshackle Your Team’s Creativity

Forward Business Planning

Have you ever wished for more input, insights, and ideas from the employees on your team?

Especially when our businesses are not performing as well as we’d like, we really need our teammates’ creative ideas. But when we gather a group and ask for ideas—whether for new product features, cost reduction ideas, or ways to improve service—we often see the same, recycled ideas. Or ideas that are just a smidgen better than what we’re doing now.

It’s not the employees’ fault. Humans are wired to keep doing what they’ve been rewarded for in the past. We are wired to protect our allies, and to avoid risk. These tendencies tend to hold us back when it comes to thinking in new ways. We are shackled by what’s worked before and have a hard time imagining a new way of doing things.

Here are a few techniques for helping your team break free to develop new ways of thinking about your business. Continue Reading →

Be Prepared and Take Action Quickly!

Take action key on a computer keyboard, business concept

One Monday in 2013, my husband and I spent the night in our car. Shortly after midnight, on our way home from playing hockey (this is a new sport for us, and great fun), we were amazed to encounter a huge traffic jam on Atlanta’s I-285. As we slowed to a stop, we saw a plume of fire as big as a house rising from a burning tractor-trailer a third of a mile ahead. Scenes from disaster movies looped in my head, and we talked about what to do if things got worse.

We passed the first hour reading books on our iPhones, then slept intermittently while waiting for the emergency workers to put out the fire and clear the wreckage. Someone from a nearby car borrowed our jumper cables, and Rob got out from time to time to walk ahead to see how things were progressing. We started the car periodically to warm up.

This incident reminded me how important being prepared can be. I was thankful to have a warm coat and sensible shoes but thought about a few things that we should keep in the car in the future. Snacks, water, a first-aid kit, at least a third of a tank of gas.

I thought, too, about business preparedness. Business people tend to enjoy planning for good things, like new products, revenue growth and hiring. It’s worth taking the time to prepare for unpleasant surprises as well, since you can tremendously improve your outcomes with a little planning.

Here are a few examples: Continue Reading →

Take Away, Don’t Just Add

Don’t fall victim to the temptation to add features, services, products, and markets every year. Consider how you can differentiate by taking away features IKEA is one of my favorite examples. They broke with tradition by eliminating features that were standard fare in other furniture stores. They took away in-store service, delivery and assembly. The stores are almost entirely self-service, but IKEA provides a distinctive, enjoyable shopping experience by offering clever, inspiring displays and ready availability of tape measures and note pads. You feel almost as if you’ve visited an amusement park.

Shoppers have to carry the products home themselves, but IKEA packages them into compact boxes that fit easily into a vehicle. Assembly is also a job performed by customers, but IKEA’s simple, stick-figure instructions make it fun, like assembling a LEGO toy (the Journal of Psychology reports that customers like their product more, and are even willing to pay more if they assemble their IKEA product themselves – amazing!). Our first experience with this was when we lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and we brought home a new dresser and assembled it with our young daughter. This created an enduring and positive family memory–tied indelibly to the IKEA brand.

While other furniture stores emphasize the durability and timelessness of their products, IKEA makes us think of furniture as a fashion accessory, something we can use for a while, and then replace. By taking away features, IKEA creates a compelling customer experience, and keeps prices amazingly low.