I was just reading the latest Industry Week magazine (digital version of course) and the article on robots caught my attention. The quote from Jeff Burnstein, President of the Robotics Industries Association started me thinking. Jeff stated that “If you are not automating, you’re not producing the best-quality products out there, you’re not meeting customer demand fast enough, you’re going to go out of business.” Now robots have really come along way and while they may or may not have an application in your business automation certainly does. With the labour skills shortage we are experiencing in this region automating as many processes as possible can be one solution and you don’t need robots to do this. Computers can automate many processes from the receipts at a restaurant (we still have handwritten receipts being given out at one restaurant in our city) to automatic time calculations for invoicing customers. You can even outsource the automation, payroll is a good example.
So if you are not tech savvy then how do you incorporate this digital technology into your business? Maybe I should have started my blogs with this advice but sometimes people need to be convinced they need the stuff before they will buy in. This article I came across offers some good advice including; start with understanding the problem you are trying to solve as well as your end goals for your business and how to get your employees on board. It also recommends you act now and that you can’t afford to put your head in the sand.
If you are interested in hearing more from me this week I did a guest post on the Moving Innovation Forward Blog. Check out ‘Innovating Innovation?’
Are you embracing digital? Or is digital a threat to your livelihood? I’m not much of a music buff so it didn’t occur to me how much the digital age was destroying the record industry. From digital advances with the creation of CD’s causing an explosion in sales, to a few years later and what looked like a terminal illness from an inability to adapt to a new business model embracing the digital age. Well perhaps the music industry has it figured out now based on this article in the New York Times but I suspect there is still need for some ongoing innovation. What I take away from this is that at the pace things are moving today we better be looking at our current business model and exploring how digital is affecting our business. Being innovative with digital technology might be a tool for survival.
Did you know that there are some pretty good apps out there that capture your handwriting digitally? This article recommends at least five that vary in price from $5 to free. So now there is no excuse not to get on board this digital train!
Do you offer Wi-Fi to your customers? I see signs in our local coffee shops offering this service for free and I know while I am there I appreciate it. But I didn’t realize that offering this service could be a competitive advantage. I came across this article in which an independent grocery store in Ontario is positioning themselves to be a community hub rather than just a place to get groceries. Just one more way that digital technology could make your business more profitable or productive.
Don’t forget to attend our Digital Technology Learning Forum. To be held at Centre 2000 March 20, 2013. We are hosting the experts as they use digital technology to help explain social media, SEO, social commerce, mobile applications, databases, and 3D printers. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive and how to use digital technology to do that please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/ or check out our new website at http://www.connectingindustry.ca/
I often feel innovation and productivity are at odds but in this day and age if you aren’t doing both you are probably on the road to serious trouble. I recently came across Jeffrey Phillip’s blog called Innovate on Purpose. In this post he was discussing the ‘Five Factors that drive the need for more innovation’. The more I read the post the more I concluded those factors were responsible for the need to become more productive as well. Customer expectations, the driving force behind any business, have evolved considerable from the days of old. The increased pace of change, increased access to information, decreased cost of entry into the market place and falling trade barriers have all lead to better informed customers with way more choices and opportunities to not only get exactly what they want but get it easier, cheaper and faster than ever before. To compete in this arena businesses need to be on the very top of their game.
So how do you do that? Well in a different post I came across some tips on how to turn employee creativity into corporate innovation. 5 must be the magic number today as this post offers 5 tips as well including invest in basic ideation training to help employees increase their creative output. It also suggests you can set up the environment to encourage creativity. As always it is about capitalizing on the talent and ingenuity of your employees. I urge you to check out the post – perhaps there are some tips there that you can use.
In closing today I can’t resist offering one more tip on how to be more productive. How about a vacation from email? According to this new study a vacation from email could be a health benefit offering reduced stress and better focus as well as increased productivity on the job. Apparently constantly reading emails not only causes stress but actually raises your heart rate. Why not consider using email blackout periods to not only help with the productivity but to set the stage for some creative time as well.
While I am passionate about productivity I am also quite zealous about innovation and I wonder sometimes if they aren’t at different ends of a continuum. Productivity can be about establishing efficient routine however it can also be about continuous improvement. From my perspective I try to be as productive as I can to allow myself the time and opportunity to be innovative. While everyone believes you need to be innovative in business to survive even in the best of times that can be a challenge especially as Aaron Shapiro suggests in his blog, most companies can’t innovate because everyone is paid to maintain the status quo. Here is that same thing I struggle with. People are encouraged to get more productive, in fact rewarded to, rather than get innovative. Aaron goes on to give some direction on how companies can overcome this.
So how do companies do it? I came across a list of the ‘Top 50 Most Innovative Companies’ and with that ‘5 Drivers of Innovation’ that they all seemed to have in common. Technology was on that list as well as demographics, attention, usability and the 3 F’s (fresh, fun, fab). Maybe innovation and productivity have more in common than we suspect. An article from the Oman Daily Observer suggests ‘Having Fun in the Office Can be Productive’ and you’ll notice ‘fun’ was one of the drivers of innovation. The article actually cites laughter as the reason for increased productivity and profits and decreased turnover. I found it interesting that children laugh an average of 400 times per day and adults over the age of 35 have it down to 15. Now that doesn’t sound like fun.
If you are looking for both innovation and productivity the one thing that you must stay away from is overtime! According to an article on Technocult in most cases overtime and lack of sleep do more harm than good. The research suggests working more than 40 hours a week has been shown to be counterproductive and overwork certainly doesn’t lead to innovative solutions either.
Now here is a predicament for today’s innovators and inventors. According to Matt Ridley author of the Rational Optimist, innovators are in the business of sharing, it is the most important thing they do, for unless they share their innovation it can have NO benefit for them or for anyone else.
Of course you can suggest that this is only after the innovation or invention is complete. However, how many innovators or inventors develop something then look around for the market? Even Henry Ford once candidly admitted that he had invented nothing new. He had ‘simply assembled into a car the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work’. Many times innovation comes from looking to another industry or sector for solutions. For example a research team at our own Grande Prairie Regional College is looking to micro algae for a solution to atmospheric pollutants.
Ridley is of the opinion that ‘Spillover of Ideas’ (the fact that others pinch your ideas) ‘is not an accident and tiresome drawback for the inventor, it is the whole point of the exercise.’ Ridley cites Romer’s New Growth Theory and suggests Romer saw that innovation itself was an item of investment, that new, applied knowledge was itself a product. So long as people who are spending money on trying to find new ideas can profit from them before they pass them on, then increasing returns are possible. For more information on Romer and The Growth Theory check out this article.
According to another article on the new growth theory, creativity is the main driver for economic development. I would go on to say that productivity is a result of and closely linked to creativity often disguised as innovation.
So thank you to all those innovators and inventors that have opened their innovations and inventions to all of us and in the spirit of the holiday season let’s all look to sharing our innovations so the spillover of ideas can benefit us all!
We really have come a long way in terms of collectively being more productive. In 1908 it took about 4700 hours of work to earn enough money to buy a Model T. It takes about 1000 hours to earn enough for an ordinary car today and it has considerable more features. In 1900 the average American spent $76 of every $100 on food, clothing and shelter, today its $37. In the 1950’s it took 30 minutes of work to buy a MacDonald’s cheeseburger, today it takes 3 minutes.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But for those sceptics and us ‘big picture’ people a short discussion on what that has done to the environment needs to be had. According to Matt Ridley, author of the Rational Optimist, in places like Beijing the environment is probably deteriorating but in Europe and the Americas rivers, lakes, seas and the air are getting cleaner all of the time. He goes on so say the Thames has less sewage and more fish. Lake Erie’s water snakes, close to extinction in the 1960’s are now abundant. Bald eagles have boomed and today a car emits less pollutants going full speed than a parked car did in 1970 from leaks.
Matt Ridley repeated suggests that self-sufficiency leads to poverty. While he was referring to humankind it certainly makes sense on a much smaller scale. If you are trying to do everything, as a business or as an entrepreneur, you are certainly not giving yourself an opportunity to get good at something. Through specialization we achieve innovation and increased productivity. Both of which are critical for success.
I always hesitate to place too much emphasis on known competitors because as I see it they are not the threat. The threat comes from innovation. The innovation that makes your product or service obsolete. What Netflix is doing to companies like Blockbuster is an excellent example. If there lies the threat then there too should lie the focus.
Getting better at what you do – specializing. Developing relationships to fill in the gaps – letting others get better at what they do for you. There lies the key for today’s business – innovation and productivity through specialization.
Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at http://www.bluecollarconsulting.ca/