Creative Problem Solving for Small Business Success

Creative Problem Solving for Entrepreneurs, Startups and Small Business Owner Success.

Leverage Your Employee’s Skills For Small Business Success.

Entrepreneurs and small business owners always ask me what they and their employees can do to achieve success in their business planning and business strategy.  While having a well developed business plan is a head start and using social media, interactive marketing, and traditional marketing all help, I encourage them to apply critical thinking and creative problem solving which begins by asking “Why?” and “What if?”

Business owners have got to get used to giving  up control to their employees by listening more and talking less. The best performing organizations see their employees as a goldmine of resources to give them lasting competitive advantage. Business owners who see their staff as head count and a cost to be managed, manipulated, and down-right controlled are destined to fail.
Instead, unleash your people’s talents. Solicit their ideas constantly. I read an article recently about a small business that gave their employees a month of paid leave to come up with ideas (on their own or in teams) to present to the company as a competition. The best ideas were implemented immediately and everyone participated, even the owners presented their ideas. Everyone had equal voting power. How do YOU encourage your employees to constantly think what they can do to better service your clients, care for your partners, vendors, and suppliers?
How do you address problems that don’t even exist? Do you have employees train in various functional departments using job rotations? Do you send your employees out to spend a day with your top customers to better understand their challenges? Do you take your top employees to breakfast, ask your people what they like most/least about your company?
Rather than brainstorming, a proven method for problem solving to solicit employee feedback is brain writing.

You present a challenge to your people in a closed door setting, and ask them to write down their proposed solutions. Then you take their papers back, shuffle and redistribute so everyone has their paper reviewed by someone else.  The problem solving objective is to go through this review process 3-4 times then have the entire team discuss each solution with the 3-4 sets of reviews/comments and the team reaches consensus on the best ideas to pursue/implement.
There is an approach to problem solving called the “DO IT approach which stands for:
D – Define the problem you and your team are facing
O – Open your mind & apply creative techniques to come up with as many actionable solutions as possible
I – Identify the best/most practical solution(s)
T – Transform: implement the solution using an action plan and transform your business

The Four (4) P Approach is another good process your business can go through for team-based creative problem-solving.
* Product/Service Perspective: your team assesses your products and services with by concentrating on whether or not something’s WRONG with your product
* Planning Perspective: Are our business plans faulty?
* Potential Perspective: If we increase our workload, projects, service offerings, how would we achieve this?
* People Perspective: Do we have the right people in the right jobs to be successful?
Another creative approach to problem solving is called the star-bursting method or the 5W & H approach that journalists apply:
Start out with your central business problem/challenge then have your team go through a complex process of answering: Who, what, where, when,
why and how…do we resolve this key business challenge.

Have your team apply metaphorical thinking. Metaphorical thinking is an approach where your team comes up with seemingly divergent unrelated business practices, process, ideas, or concepts.  For example, you’ve heard the phrase “time” is “money.” But is it…really? Of course not. The synergistic connection is something you have to make a formal connection on by equating the value of your staff’s time, effort, and resource investment as well as the potential monetary or business impact of accomplishing solutions.
Dare your people to be great. Just allowing your employees to be good enough leads to failure due to poor business performance.  That is what Jim Collins wrote about in his book: “Good to Great.”
Top performing organizations that dare to be great embrace a culture highlighted by owners, managers, and staff that as a whole:
* Take Calculated Risks: Reach for the stars, if you fall short you still reach the moon.
*  Set STRETCH Goals: Every employee goal should be a stretch. Meaning if they work as hard as they can, challenge themselves constantly then they MAY achieve their goal. Even if they “fail” they still will exceed your wildest expectations on what each employee and your business as a whole can and will achieve.
* Embrace Change: Whether you like it or not change is constant in today’s global transformational workplace and business climate.
Technology changes at unheralded speed and competition can come from anywhere.
* Run Towards Challenges: The best businesses and leaders lead their people into challenges not running away to hide from them. Case in point, managers who fail always react to economic hardship by laying off employees and cutting back spending on marketing and advertising. Best run businesses see challenging times as a chance to steal their competit5iors’ best talent and expand their promotional programs to achieve maximum results because their competitors are all cutting back. Buck conventional wisdom. If it isn’t broke, break it!
* Lean Into Discomfort: It’s easy to be a business owner that seeks stability. Unfortunately we simply cannot run our business by going back to what used to work.
Pursuing the status quo is a surefire recipe for failure. you can tell the worst business owners who, in response to being asked why they practiced certain business
processes, procedures, and practices their response is: “that’s how things have always been done around here.”
* Take on New responsibilities: Top performers are always looking for new roles and responsibilities. Top performers are inner directed, and they
seek out opportunities to develop new skills, acquire additional talents, certifications, training, accreditations, etc.
* Find GREAT Allies: The best businesses and visionary leaders are small business owners who are always looking for successful partnerships. They see
every relationship as a chance to strengthen their own organization. These leaders are philosophically committed to the value of relationship-building
and serving others. their strong corporate culture is based on giving back to the community, doing good, and encouraging all their employees to make a difference in the world.
According to Steve Jobs: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. . .” These are great words to live by, and model your approach as a leader and successful business owner.