Use big ideas to get your mojo back

Originally published as a Special to Globe and Mail Update on March 21, 2012

the globe and mail canada

Mea culpa.

As a relentless cheerleader for innovation, I have harped on its importance as a stimulus for competitive advantage and organic growth. What I may have forgotten to tell business owners is that innovation is also fun.

It’s the coconut-cream pie after dinner. It’s the trip to the toy department after buying socks and underwear.

Spending time with entrepreneurs has taught me that they share a desire to create something new. An essential strand in their DNA compels them to cause a disturbance by shaking up their marketplace and filling a void. But my sense is that some entrepreneurs tend to lose that killer instinct as their role evolves from disruptor to operator and manager. They spend more time and energy doing what they have to do rather than what they are wired to do.

Instead of guilting business owners into embracing innovation, I’m going to remind them that their instinct for discovery and disruption is the reason they became entrepreneurs in the first place. Big ideas made them happy. And big ideas can put the bounce back into their step, and the rev in their revenue statements.

It’s never a bad idea to do what you’re best at, and what you love to do.

To all the entrepreneurs chained to their desks and baffled by their own bureaucracy, my suggestion is simple: offload a bunch of operational responsibilities onto someone who loves them, and focus your passion on the next epiphany or invention that’s pinging around in your right brain.

Even if an idea doesn’t turn into a full-fledged profit centre, the discovery process will energize you and infect the people around you. Once you reassert yourself as your company’s chief innovation officer, you’ll inspire your team to start thinking about possibilities, rather than simply punching in and out.

We all know what innovative cultures can do. You’ve seen companies such as Google, Apple and Virgin thrive and grow under the leadership of original thinkers. You’ve seen upstarts such as Under Armour and Spanx shake up the stodgy underwear industry, with the leaders of both companies recently vaulting onto the latest Forbes magazine “billionaire’s list.”

Give yourself and your people permission to imagine and explore new ideas – even if they’re only process improvements. Questioning the status quo is always beneficial. By rediscovering your own eureka muscles, you can lift the spirits of your people and your business’s bottom line.

You’ll have more fun and your people will feel more invested in the company.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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