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Roadblocks to Innovation: How to Keep Moving Forward in Business



Kraft has been making cheese since the early 1920′s. They’re a well-respected brand and a leader in the business. Still, they can’t simply rest on their laurels. They have to keep coming up with new products, like Fresh Take. This product creates a crunchy, flavorful cheese and crumb coating with almost no mess. The secret is their dual bag that magically zips open to become a mixing bowl and crumb shaker. Kraft took a kitchen chore (breading meats) and turned it into a fast and easy option for dinner.

Innovation is necessary if a company wants to grow, but it’s one of the hardest elements of running a business. Particularly when you’ve been around as long as Kraft has. It’s hard because innovation is a creative process and our days are generally anti-creative for a variety of reasons.

Robert Half conducted a survey on roadblocks to innovation and here’s what they found out.

35% of CFO’s said a lack of new ideas was their biggest problem. That’s sort of like saying a lack of food is the reason you’re hungry. So why can’t they come up with new ideas?

24% said “excessive bureaucracy” was a creativity killer. 20% said they were too bogged down with daily tasks and putting out fires. (Preaching to the choir, folks!) We get so caught up in the day-to-day running of our business, that we can’t see beyond what’s right in front of us.

I just finished reading Scott Belsky’s marvelous book “Making Ideas Happen.” What I took away from the book is that ideas are enough, you have to execute. It’s the brilliant author who never finishes a book versus the passable author who finishes and publishes five books a year.

Scott’s not advocating mediocrity, but he is advocating focus. For example, I love to build websites but I hate keeping them up. Over the last five years, I’ve build probably 25 websites but none of them were the money-makers I hoped they’d be. Were they bad sites? No. But after building them, I mostly abandoned them in favor of a new, cooler idea. Those websites never had a chance.

My point is that no ideas or too many ideas – neither one is going to help you grow your business. What you need to do is make the time to brainstorm then focus on moving forward.

Robert Half has a list of tips that can help and here are two of the best:

Engage the entire team. Empowered employees tend to be more innovative because they have a bigger emotional stake in the firm’s success. Cultivate a culture in which staff at all levels can easily share solutions for improving the business. Maintain an open-door policy and also encourage people to offer ideas in meetings, through an internal website or even an old-fashioned suggestion box.

Seek inspiration. As a leader, you set the tone. You’ll have difficulty motivating staff to ignite creative sparks if you’re feeling uninspired yourself. Research shows a person in a relaxed, positive mood has more innovative thoughts. Feeling the pressure? Occasionally get away from your desk and unplug by going for a head-clearing stroll.

I know that stepping away from work is tough. It often feels like your whole business will collapse around you if you take the morning off to go walk in the park. But the truth is, it won’t and you’ll be better for it in the end.

For many of you, this weekend is a holiday. Use that as an excuse to shut off the computer and the cell phone. You can still think about business, but think about it in a new and expansive way. Where would you go if you had all the money and time in the world? Brainstorm big, then figure out a way to make it happen.

One new idea could be the difference between just making the rent and having money to spare.