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Innovation can be daunting. What I find interesting is that even among some of the most enlightened entrepreneurs who understand the need to continually innovate, there is a tendency to ignore their own advice. I know a business owner of a professional services firm who encourages all her employees to think more creatively, to get out and visit clients and attend conferences and trade shows to collect and exchange ideas—and yet she never seems to find the time to do any of this herself. Not surprisingly, her employees don’t get around to it either.
Creative leadership is very much about encouraging and rewarding those around you to think differently about their work, to explore news areas for improvement, and to identify new markets and opportunities. But to ensure that innovation is part of the fabric of your small business, you have to get in the game and model these actions yourself. Lead an ideation session with your employees to explore new questions and challenges about your products, services, or markets. Get out together and visit a trade show or a group of key customers to learn more about how your business serves them and solves their problems. Ask everyone to come back with ideas about how to make things even better. Companies become more innovative when no one stays on the sidelines—from the top on down.
Professor of Management
Director, Center for Creativity & Innovation
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