Innovative thinking is a key ingredient to great ideas. It’s important to always encourage creativity in the workplace. Listening to what everyone has to say and allowing them to express their thoughts and ideas might spark the next big thing for your company. Even in a small lawn and garden business, it’s vital to listen to those that run the register, work in the service department, and everyone else in between. By allowing everyone to convey their thoughts, you create more of an opportunity not only for that individual to shine, but also for your business to reap benefits from fresh ideas. Many large corporations take this very approach.
The 3M Company encourages creativity from its employees. The company allows its researchers to spend 15 percent of their time on any project that interests them. This attitude has brought fantastic benefits not only to the employees, but also to the 3M Company itself. On several occasions, a spark of an idea turned into a successful product, boosting 3M’s profits tremendously.
In 1974, a scientist in 3M’s commercial office took advantage of this 15-percent creative time. This scientist, Art Fry, came up with an idea for one of 3M’s best-selling products. It seems that Fry dealt with a small irritation every Sunday as he sang in the church choir. After bookmarking his pages in the hymnal with small bits of paper, the small pieces would invariably fall out all over the floor. Suddenly, an idea struck Fry. He remembered an adhesive developed by a colleague, Spencer Silver, that everyone thought was a failure because it did not stick very well.
“I coated the adhesive on a paper sample,” Fry recalls, “and I found that it was not only a good bookmark, but it was great for writing notes. It will stay in place as long as you want it to, and then you can remove it without damage.”
Yes, Fry hit the jackpot. The resulting product was called Post-it note, and it has become one of 3M’s most successful office products.
When young F.W. Woolworth was a store clerk, he tried to convince his boss to have a 10-cent sale to reduce inventory. The boss agreed, and the idea was a resounding success.
This inspired Woolworth to open his own store and price items at a nickel and a dime. He needed capital for such a venture, so he asked his boss to supply the capital for part interest in the store. His boss turned him down flat. “The idea is too risky,” he told Woolworth. “There are not enough items to sell for 5 and 10 cents.”
Woolworth went ahead without his boss’s backing, and he not only was successful with his first store, but eventually he owned a chain of F.W. Woolworth stores across the nation. Later, his former boss was heard to remark, “As far as I can figure out, every word I used to turn Woolworth down cost me about a million dollars.”
In conclusion of both stories, we understand the importance of listening to others. Suppressing ideas can result in the downfall of your business or loss of opportunity in the long run. Taking a risk may seem scary, but we have all heard the formula, risk over reward. When you hire an employee, you are taking a chance on that person from the beginning. If that individual was able to convince you that he or she was worth taking a chance on, it’s only right to take a chance on that individual’s ideas. You don’t want to be like the boss of Woolworth and have to regrettably say, “Every word I used to turn (insert former employee’s name) down cost me about a million dollars.” Embrace creativity, new ideas and freethinking, and see where it takes you!