I must be honest here. I’m really not crazy about the title of this category: “Out-of-the-Box Thinking.” I feel that term is not only old—it’s been beaten to death. That’s why we promote one of our creativity keynote presentations as “Get Back in the Box” with a full explanation of why you should do this and how to go about it. However, conventional wisdom has proven time and time again that if we want to attract people using search engines, we must use that antiquated terminology. Kind of a Catch 22 if you will.
Anyway, we promised to share real-life examples from the business world which will encourage you to join this inevitable revolution of creative thinking. The following two illustrations prove the fact that some of your very best potentially creative ideas can be found among your own people. Simply express your openness to any and all suggestions from your staff, actively listen to the ideas as they begin to flow, respond accordingly, and recognize and reward those who share their creativity. It’ll cost you absolutely nothing but will be one of the best investments you will ever make! We see proof of it time and time again!
It was the janitor’s idea. The famous El Cortez Hotel in San Diego provides an excellent example of the tremendous benefits and competitive advantage of listening to employees at every level in an organization. The hotel management decided to install an additional elevator to better serve their guests. Engineers drew up plans cutting holes through each floor of the hotel. A janitor, who was genuinely concerned about this approach, shared his concern that this would make a great deal of confusion and clutter. The janitor was told not to worry because the hotel would be closed to guests during the construction. The janitor asked, “Why not build the elevator on the outside of the hotel?” At the time, this architectural concept had never been done before, but after investigation by the engineers, it proved an idea that was worth developing and is now commonplace in buildings today worldwide. The janitor’s idea saved the El Cortez from lost revenue, employees from losing salary and major clean-up costs related to the construction of the new elevator. Here is another obvious example of taking advantage of the experience, pride, knowledge and creativity of existing staff members.
Use It or Lose It!
We often speak of the importance of tapping the full potential of your organization. So many companies regularly ignore this tremendous asset while others focus on it and reap the obvious benefits. We hear so much about Southwest Airlines and the fact that they lead the industry in so many categories. So many people struggle to figure out how Southwest succeeds at a time when so many of their competitors struggle simply to survive. The answer is obvious and Southwest does nothing to hide it. In fact, they proudly share this secret in books, magazines, interviews, and all over their web site. The secret—their people and the culture they so eagerly support. In February 2000, Southwest Airlines CEO Herb Kelleher sent a letter concerning the current fuel cost crisis to the home of every employee. “Jet fuel costs three times what it did one year ago. Southwest was using 19 million gallons a week at that time (Today they use closer to 31 million gallons per week!). Our profitability is in jeopardy,” he wrote. He asked each worker to help by identifying a way to save $5 a day. The response was immediate. A group of mechanics figured out how to reduce the cost of heating the aircraft. Another department offered to do its own janitorial work. Within six weeks of the letter being sent to the employees, this large organization found ways to save more than $2 million. So many other organizations have the same opportunity but clearly choose to ignore it.