Trick or Treat Management: How to Jump Start Innovation

TrickOrTreatBagTrick or Treat: That time-honored tradition of dressing up in a special costume so no one can recognize you, then going from door-to-door challenging the homeowner to give you a treat or receive a trick. (I remember back in the day, when we only went to homes of people we knew. They invited us in, made a big deal of trying to guess who we were, and then providing a wonderful, delicious, handmade treat like popcorn balls, fudge, or cookies. It has changed a bit since then!)

We’d like to suggest an organizational Trick or Treat session! No costumes are required. Instead, organize a small task force composed of 5 – 7 people who are unfamiliar with or have limited experience with a new product line, plant start-up, customer contact program, proposed policy change, etc. Bring these folks together, provide great treats, and propose the challenge.

The challenge could be anything! For example, how to:

    • institute a fair and equitable employee benefits or compensation package;
    • reduce the costs of operating by 15%;
    • ensure zero defects in XYZ assembly;
    • create a new product idea;
    • increase first-time complaints resolutions by 10%;
    • modify existing information retrieval systems to make them more user friendly; establish a work environment characterized by optimism and positivity;
    • increase the level of employee engagement, etc.

That’s right!  We’re asking you to lead a group of people who are totally unfamiliar and unknowledgeable about the subject area.

Create-Imagine-stones-ca19396557Before you throw your martyred hands up in despair, consider this:
A half-dozen or so highly reputable studies of the process of invention reveal the following fact: the lion’s share of invention comes from the wrong person in the wrong field in the wrong industry with the wrong credentials and the wrong connections at the wrong time in conjunction with the wrong user (Kaufman et al, 2009; Meusburger, 2009).

You may want to read that last paragraph again. Go ahead. We’ll wait!

Typical among the invented by imposter scenarios:

    • Kodachrome, invented by two musicians;
    • synthetic detergents by dye-making chemists;
    • a birth-control device by a gynecologist AND dentist, of all people;
    • camouflage patterns used in the military came from the cubist art of Picasso and Baroque;
    • the ohm mea­surement in electricity by a mere Jesuit math teacher; the unbreakable U. S. military code used during WWII was based on the Navajo language; and (our favorite)
    • manned flight was invented by two bicyclists, the Wright brothers (although an August 1901 flight by Connecticut aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead made this the first successful powered flight in history, beating the Wright Brothers by more than two years … Testament to the power of good marketing

Ideas-fancyVariations on this theme: Extend an idea. Talk to lead-users. Ask customers to help design a more customer-friendly service system. If you’re a manufacturing manager, ask a distribution manager to suggest ways you could improve your operations. If you’re in distribution, ask sales. If per­sonnel, ask new hires. If the COO/CEO, ask the custodian, quality assurance manager, maintenance supervisor, secretary, or office ser­vices manager. Cross the border. Trespass. Use outsiders as your passport to fast-paced innovation.

When you open yourself up to the ideas of others, no matter who, you will experience an abundance of “treats” that will “trick” the economy and lead to amazing results! That’s what extraordinary leadership is all about!

Research support:
Csíkszentmihályi, Mihály, Creativity:Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. Harper Collins, New York, 1996.
Kaufman, James C.; Beghetto, Ronald A., “Beyond Big and Little: The Four C Model of Creativity”. Review of General Psychology 13 (1): 1–12; 2009.

About Cher & Bil Holton

Since 1984, Cher & Bil Holton have been co-owners of The Holton Consulting Group, Inc., helping corporate and association clients enhance bottom-line results using cutting edge employee engagement. Their keynote speeches, turbo-training, and coaching sessions are practical, grounded in research, and lots of fun to boot! They are prolific authors, and take "Indiana Jones" vacations to continually stretch their limits!
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