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Prime Time for a Rhyme

A new way to begin to address the issues of innovation in business.

by Travis Sheridan

Businesses face innovation and growth issues. They need to grow, but many are paralyzed by the complexity of growth. To tackle the complexity and solve such challenges, consultants are hired, flip charts and PowerPoint presentations are artistically designed, and at least one task force is assembled. Rarely do people remember the famous “All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” phrase. Enterprises have a habit of forgetting this simple promise once made by an influential teacher, a parent or a favorite aunt. To address the issues of innovation and growth, begin by looking at the characters in the nursery rhyme “Rub-A-Dub-Dub”: the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker.
The Butcher. The butcher provides protein that allows an entity to have the strength to move through the innovation and growth process. Strength can come in the form of identifying existing assets or successes upon which to build. In addition, strength exists in the growth itself – progress is motivating. The butcher cuts the aforementioned items into bite-sized morsels so they can be served over a long period of time. Growth and innovation are not about binging; they are about a proper diet over time. Without the proper amount of protein, the growth in the organization may prove too difficult to sustain. Along with protein’s long-term nature, there is a need for sudden bursts of energy to ignite innovation and growth.
The Baker. We live in a “carbs are bad” world; however, the baker is a necessary partner during periods of growth and innovation. Ventures in the midst of innovation can get mired in the process and bureaucracy. The baker cooks up delightful treats, which lead to the carb-induced bursts needed to move through the process. These explosions of energy take the form of excitement about the growth, celebration of milestones achieved and the act of simply making it through another day. The danger with the baker’s carb creations is the reliance on them for overall nourishment. An organization cannot sprint its way through growth. Too many carbs can lead to increased heaviness and will ultimately bring the innovation process to a halt. When it comes to diet, everything in moderation is a good rule.
The Candlestick Maker. The key to managing the growth and innovation process is the presence of a clear vision. The candlestick maker is the one responsible for keeping the vision illuminated during the process. There will be times during the growth when the future looks bleak and dark. The end will be nowhere in sight. The dangers along the way will lurk in the shadows. While many may create the vision, it takes only a few to keep it illuminated. Executives and leaders can cast the vision, but can they effectively communicate it -- can they pass the flame from candle to candle? Can they keep it lit when the winds of opposition and doubt begin to blow? Growth can be viewed as a big problem or a great possibility. It just depends on what light it is being viewed in.
It is interesting to imagine these three characters in a tub. Each plays an important role. The level and rate of innovation have been significant the past two decades. There have also been times when entities wanted to approach growth as a carb-based sprint. This reckless behavior led to unsustainable growth (think sugar rush and subsequent sugar crash). Growth and innovation are truly a process requiring long-term strength, small bursts of energy and an illuminated vision. Before you hire a consultant, post flip charts around the room or organize a task force, it may make sense to revisit Mother Goose.

Travis Sheridan is the assistant vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship for the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. A writer and speaker, he focuses on using innovation as a driver for economic and community development. Follow him on Twitter @TravisSheridan.

Submitted 5 years 192 days ago
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Categories: categoryThe Innovation Roadmap
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