Innovate like you mean it

Take a few minutes and think about the following questions:


  • Why are manhole covers round? 

  • What is the color of the universal Yield sign on all major highways?


As trivial as these questions may sound, they force us to think fundamentally about two different sets of firmly held beliefs: the first is how we fail to revisit simple ideas that often hold the answer to some of the most pressing challenges we face in our organizations. The second points to our long held assumptions as fact when the current reality is far from what we have come to believe.


Both of these elements are what we call Innovation killers in organizations. As business owners we are constantly confronted with barriers to our strategic goals, from client acquisition, market penetration, competitive differentiation or supply chain efficiency and we often stumble with unique solutions to these pressing issues. More often than not, most companies have access to innovative and creative ideas within their rank and file and even other stakeholders such as vendors, suppliers and clients. Nevertheless, our innovative blind spots such as “No one else does it that way” or “The answer is too simple, it will never work” are often at work in our assumptions and hide what should be in plain sight.


The 21st century organization is the truly networked company where information, ideas and even failures travel seamlessly throughout and allow individuals, teams and groups to participate and learn interchangeably. The challenge for companies is how to organize their structure to allow such information to freely flow within their various sections, but more importantly how to cultivate the innovation mindset. The innovation mindset is nothing more than a change in perspective and the willingness to follow ideas to their end point. Increasingly, innovation and creativity is becoming the realm of everyone within the organization of the future, and to seed it thoroughly, leaders must be willing to let go of defined ways of doing things and experiment broadly with divergent teams and groups, even clients. Change is so rapid that one leader can’t hope to keep abreast of all developments, much less be responsible for the innovation needed to keep ahead of them. Decision making is broadly distributed across an organization, and collaboration is required with numerous parties outside it. (Harvard Business Review- Where Will We Find the Leaders of Tomorrow?)


The time to unleash innovation and creativity in all sectors of companies has arrived, and executives must begin the process of turning them into an everyday occurrence. Join Gilead Sanders at many of our Innovation Workshops held throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. Our next session of “ will be on July 29th, at the Cincinnati Regional Chamber from 9:00 AM-11:00 A.M. Feel free to download our brochure to learn more or register online.


If you did not come up with an answer to the questions posed (without using Google), they are- because the circle shape is the only one that will not fall through when a manhole is uncovered, and second if you answered red for the yield sign you would be correct. However, how many of you thought it was yellow? It was until 1971. The world is changing…..your business should be too.