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spike bullet June 2000 � Taking Initiative at Work

Thinking Outside the Box
Think Differently
Unleashing Creativity
Managing UP
Put Yourself in Your Customer's Shoes
Resources (links, books, articles)

Our newsletter this month includes excerpts from 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work by Bob Nelson.   One of Bob's favorite quotes, "The biggest mistake you make in life is to think you work for someone else."

color bulletThinking Outside the Box

Innovation is the spark that keeps organizations moving ever onward and upward. We innovate to

(1) improve products and services, 
(2) find a new way to do something,
(3) make a task easier or faster,
(4) save money,
(5) enhance our jobs, and
(6) increase our promotability.

Without innovation, new products, new services and new ways of doing business would never emerge, and most organizations would be forever stuck doing the same old things the same old way. 

It has been said that 98 percent of an organization's problems can be solved routinely.

However, the remaining 2 percent of an organization's problems coincidentally, the problems that have the greatest effect on the organization-require employee innovation to surmount.

Despite the undeniably positive benefits of innovation within organizations, it seems that roadblocks to thinking creatively abound. 

According to a UCLA study, at age five, we engage in creative tasks 98 times a day, laugh 113 times, and ask questions 65 times. By the age of 44, however, the numbers shrink to 2 creative tasks a day, 11 laughs and 6 questions. 

Furthermore, the UCLA study found a 91 percent negative response rate among adults exposed to new ideas. 

Creativity and innovation flourish in an environment that encourages them to grow and to blossom, but all it takes is a frown or a negative word to shut them down completely.  

color bullet Tips to Think Differently 

  • Look for new combinations.
  • Ask "what if?" or develop "what-if" scenarios.
  • Consider approaches you've never thought about before.
  • Brainstorm with others.
  • Be a champion of new ideas � the old ways aren't always the best ways.

color bullet Unleashing Creativity

Just think how great it would be if all employees had the opportunity to contribute their ideas to their organizations and be appreciated for doing so. 

Fortunately, organizations today are increasingly relying on all workers, not just their managers, to find new creative ways to do business. 

According to Grace McGartlan, president of GM Consultants of Toronto, Ontario, anyone can unleash the untapped innovation and creativity in the workplace by applying the following principles: 

  1. Take the mystery out of creativity: define expected outcomes so that everyone in the organization understands where employees should direct their efforts. 
  2. Discover how individuals are creative: every person has his or her own approach to generating new ideas. Ask for input, but remember that people have different work styles. 
  3. Define challenges specifically: focus on areas where creative solutions are needed instead of wasting time on areas that generate little or no return to the individual or organization.
  4. Minimize fear of failure: find ways to absorb risk. Regard mistakes as learning opportunities. Rewarding employees who take prudent risks will encourage them to innovate even more.
  5. Take personal responsibility: develop an organizational climate for innovation. Start with yourself and the people within your personal sphere of influence.
  6. Encourage active communications: set up hot lines among groups for quick, ongoing interactive idea exchanges.
  7. Enhance your own creative skills and behavior: set an example.

color bullet Secrets to Managing UP

  1. Make your boss look like a hero. The better job you do, the better your department-and your boss-will look to corporate higher-ups. 
  2. Don't be shy. Tell your boss what's on your mind � don't make him or her guess. 
  3. Be proactive. Anticipate problems and solve them at your level, before they become bigger problems that only your boss can solve. 
  4. Be your own best advocate. Learn how to present a clear and compelling case for what you want, whether it's a raise or a promotion, an increase in responsibility or authority, or something else you want your boss to do for you. Support your case with hard facts and evidence, not emotion. 
  5. Enlist others to help. There is strength in numbers. The more people you can bring around to your point of view, the better chance you'll have to see it implemented. 

color bullet Put Yourself in Your Customer�s Shoes

A key part of being able to take initiative in helping a customer is to put yourself in the customer�s position. 

Understanding what a customer really wants or needs is essential to delivering on that need.

 Yet, the longer you are in a job, the more likely it is for you to lose empathy with the customer. 

Here are ways to keep your customer focus fresh: 

Pay attention when you're the customer.  

We are all customers in most walks of our lives.

  • Pay attention to how you are treated as a customer.
  • Who gives you undivided attention and makes you feel welcome?
  • How do you react to such treatment?
  • When possible, ask others who provide exceptional customer service how they are able to do it.
  • What keeps their approach to dealing with customers fresh? 

Think about what would be of value if you were the customer. 

  • As you deal with customers, try to put yourself in their situation.
  • When possible, ask customers what they think you should do to help resolve their problems.
  • If possible, try to identify multiple solutions to increase the chances that you can meet their needs.
  • Experiment with different potential solutions and scenarios by being proactive.
  • As you learn a customer's problems or needs, imagine doing something that you have never done before to help them.
  • Try to follow through and meet that need.

Have fun with the customer.

  • Focus on enjoying your job and enjoying your interaction with customers.
  • Vary the way you go about your job tasks whenever possible.
  • Be in the present as you focus on and deal with others.  

� Bob Nelson 1999. Excerpts from 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work used with permission of the author.  

Thanks, Bob, or allowing us to share your tips with our readers!

Bob Nelson, founder of Nelson Motivation, Inc. in San Diego, is also the author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and 1001 Ways to Energize Employees. His company can be reached at 1-800-575-5521 or  

World Wide Web graphic Internet Resources

book graphic Books    -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, Bob Nelson 1999. Publisher Workman Publishing, New York, NY. ISBN: 076111405X
  • Bob Nelson, founder of Nelson Motivation, Inc. in San Diego, is also the author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and 1001 Ways to Energize Employees
  • Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey. Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (September 1990) ISBN: 0671708635

world wide web - articles Articles

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