Superpower #2: Engaging Creativity and Advancing New Ideas

Pop quiz:

First question: What challenges do nearly all leadership segments have in common, regardless of industry? Take a moment to think about that …

Now, don’t think automatically of the ‘innovators’ — the Google’s, the Apple’s, the SpaceX’s.

  • Think of the shop in your downtown that you walk by during lunch break.
  • Think of the home repair big-box store.
  • Think of your hospital, doctor, veterinarian, dentist, ophthalmologist, or other health provider.
  • Think of the gym up the street.
  • Think of the real estate office that opened in the new strip mall near your favorite Starbucks.

Also, think of the businesses that maybe didn’t make it, like Sam Goody …

So, what comes to mind?

I’ll give you some hints:

  • Piped Muzak: if you hang around in the store long enough, you’ll hear the same loop. Several times. And when the holidays come, yeah, that.
  • The possibility of a struggling trainee: they are either at the register or on the floor and you can feel their tension at not having the answer you need.
  • The possibility of the disinterested worker: they too are either at the register or on the floor and you can feel their lack of tension for your needs.
  • The possibility of an overworked manager: they might be anywhere in the store, trying to check in on the senior staff from time to time while supporting the struggling trainees, disinterested workers, and any customers who aren’t getting their needs met.
  • Customers: some might be lost, in a daze, because there are many merchandise options. Others might be disgruntled — due to something in the store or just in life. Others might be on a mission, seeking only that which they desire and a swift exit. Or, the place might be swarming with people, shopping for Black Friday deals, sell-out specials, or it’s just the lunch hour rush.

Second question: what’s the solution?

I’ll give you a hint.

Look at the title of this post.

Yes — it’s really that simple.

No matter what the industry, success is dependent on creativity and new ideas.

I used to work in retail and even then, as a teenager, I noticed how customers reacted when we rearranged the store or put up a new display in a new place. I didn’t realize until much later that something as ‘minor’ as changing the floor plan or putting up new end-caps (the displays of certain products at the ends of the aisles that sometimes don’t relate to what’s in the aisle) really grabbed customers’ attention. When we’d close early or stay late to literally move aisles and content, the reactions when we reopened were amazing. The products were the same, the staff were the same, but a change in position made a world of difference. I was fortunate to work with a manager who didn’t stifle our creativity … so long as we followed what the Corporate Office wanted!

When did you last engage your creativity? What was the last time one of your team members pitched a new idea at your weekly meeting?

When was the last time you pitched a new idea to the team? Or to your leader?

If it’s been a while, you should get to it. How might you leverage this second Recon Leader superpower?

The first step involves making a list by answering this question:

If money and time were no object, what initiative would I bring forward (to the team, to my leader, to the Corporate Office)?

This is the magic wand question. It gets your creative juices flowing. Think of as many items as you possibly can and write them down, no matter how expensive or impossible they might feel at first.

There’s a saying in the writing universe: in every fiction there is a nugget of reality.

Recon Leaders begin to activate their creative super power by exploring the realm of ‘what could be’.

The second step requires you to go back to the start of your list to:

  • Examine each initiative: put a mark by or highlight the ones that have a nugget of reality in them. The nugget might be something that the team has wanted to do in the past but never got around to putting in place, or maybe it’s something that just wasn’t worked into the annual budget before.
  • Create two ‘buckets’ for the initiatives you just marked or highlighted: the first is the ‘in the next X (weeks/months/years)’ bucket and the second is the ‘not yet’ bucket. Remember: with creativity, nothing is completely off the table for a Recon Leader!

Now, put the list away for a while. Maybe a week or two. Then, pull it out again and look at your buckets. Carefully analyze each initiative, regardless of the bucket it’s in and refine it by exploring these questions:

  • What resources (people, time, money) will it take to bring this initiative to life?
  • What stakeholders need to buy in for it to happen?
  • If I had to pitch it to (the team, other leaders, the CEO, the Board), what would I say in five minutes (what’s the elevator speech about this initiative – what is it, what is the problem it solves for the constituents and for the company, and what needs to be brought in or taken away for it to work)?

Use a list, a mind map, or other tools at your disposal to start your lists. Think about who you can present the initiative, along with your elevator pitch, in a safe and non-judgmental space for feedback.

Coming soon will be some thoughts on the importance of feedback to the R-Leader.

Not sure about your own R-Leader creative superpower? Learn more by signing up to take the R-Leader Creativity Survey (R-LCS), which is currently in development! Fill out the Contact Form and indicate your interest in taking an R-Leader assessment. That will put you on the list to be one of the first to be notified that the R-LCS is ready.

Published by AR Neal

Dr. Andree Robinson-Neal got bit by the writing bug in the 1970s and despite a career in education has never been cured of her penchant for speculative fiction. You can sometimes find her at https://agnubloom.com, where she writes under the name AR Neal, who will hopefully be discovered and have a bunch of her work republished in multiple languages and turned into stage and screenplays. She is a practitioner and the developer of Reconnoiter Leadership. Learn more at https://r-leadership.com.

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