insights & research

Challenging Times: What's Your Best Bet?

By Lorraine Weygman, M. Ed., CHRP

Now that global economies are going through tough times again and may get tougher before the pain stops, fear and its resulting knee-jerk reactions are counterproductive...

Time-honoured wisdom is to cut expenses and reduce staff by laying off, downsizing, closing offices and plants. For those still employed, morale can be lower than the belly of a worm. What's needed is the alchemy of an engaged workforce, which rises to exceptional performance.

A meltdown doesn't have to happen to everyone. Combining hope with decisive action, communication, collaboration and innovation, is more likely to work. The value of acting strategically, creatively and decisively – for the long term while making specific plans for the short term, results in survival, growth and an edge on the competition.

Throughout the millennia, it's been proven that crisis can bring opportunity for change and innovation. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. Workplace loyalty doesn't happen overnight, particularly with a stressed, overworked, overwhelmed staff. Inspired leaders create an inspired culture that generates hopeful, cooperative, passionate staff that believe in and support necessary change. In this atmosphere, people feel free to share ideas, give opinions and know they've been respected and heard. Morale is high. Bottom line soars.

Obviously, an organization's most important asset is its people. Some will need training in new skills to perform more effectively in their current or future job to help the organization move toward increased success. Maintaining older workers saves time, money and efficiency. They have the experience, intelligence and knowledge – much of it in their heads, not on paper. In the past, many of the companies that maintained and retrained staff succeeded where others did not. Be creative.

Learn from errors that organizations created in past recessions. Due to the retirement of the baby boomers, there will still be a talent shortage. When morale is low, demoralized staff will leave with the first opportunity. Although they may feel fortunate to be employed, when their stress levels rise, their productivity dips – slowly devaluating your organization.

Innovation is critical for long term success. Look at your business model. Could it use reinventing or critical surgery? For example, Apple was not the first to bring small digital players to the marketplace. When they launched their iPod in combination with the iTunes store, they simplified technology by enabling its customers to easily and conveniently download music, thus revolutionizing portable entertainment. This innovation and business model change accounted for an huge increase in sales and revenue and transformed the company. What can you do to put a new spark in the marketplace and with whom?

Innovation doesn't just drop out of heaven. Sometimes it begins with an “aha”. To develop it, you need collaboration and a problem solving process. Some people are more creative than others. They excel at generating new ideas, find alternatives or are able to find problems where others don't see them. Innovators are rare and need to be nurtured and developed in order to create breakthrough change. Do you know if you have any, where they are and how to best develop them? I do.

Innovators need people to challenge and help develop their ideas. Others excel at working out the details or implementing a well planned and designed new concept, process or product. There is nothing like a team whose players have different thinking styles, who can collaborate for the good of all. Their differences are their greatest asset.

Dr. Min Basadur, Professor of Innovation at the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University and Founder of Basadur Applied Creativity has spent the past 25 years revolutionizing how people think. His system uses the strengths of the individual's preferred thinking style and a problem solving system to create quality, measurable and successful solutions. He believes that key ingredients of quality results must include the right people with the right knowledge, a process utilizing knowledgeable skills and tools. Believing that a collaborative team works best, the brainstorming process generates a host of facts and ideas that create formidable outcomes.

Creativity and innovation drive economic growth. Twenty first century leaders drive change rather than being chased by it. The key is adaptability, constant re-invention, maintaining a proactive stance with an inspired and loyal workforce. Everyone is capable of leaving a meaningful legacy. What will yours be? Do let me know!

Lorraine Weygman is an internationally experienced speaker, facilitator, coach, writer and consultant, specializing in the inspired workplace, innovation, change  and  collaborative teams.  She can be reached at 416-630-6423 and lorraine@weygman.com

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