Ideal business solutions require overcoming ingrained habits to generate healthy change. In the business world, these ingrained habits are known as functional fixedness. While efficiency evolves from repetition, it also stifles creative problem solving. In conference center leadership, it is critical to understand the strategic difference. Knowing when to work efficiently and when its time to mix-it-up empowers us to successfully deliver our mission.
Over the years, business experts have developed techniques to identify these shifts in innovative thinking and staff utilization. Changing our approach to a problem can enhance our ability to innovate business practices. Here is a recap as outlined in the December 2015 edition of the Harvard Business Review:
1. Change how you describe an object/task/problem. Map out your descriptions in a tree diagram. This systemic approach opens up thinking. Ask “Can this situation be broken down further? Does our current definition limit the object's use? If the answer is yes, find new words to describe the object and its parts. Strive for generic descriptions to open up possibilities. On a sheet of paper, write down your brainstorming ideas. For example,
- Laundry-linens-guests satisfaction-appearance-soft/stain-free/ironed-cotton/polyester
- Laundry-linens-in-house/outsourced labor-new machines/partner with another company-wash/fold-storage-water/soap-energy
Does any part of these descriptions challenge your established process and invite new ways to approach the situation?
2. Look to describe all the elements of a problem. Consider materials, size, shape, parts AND color, design use, emotions it evokes, energy it generates. From this comprehensive review, develop checklists for tasks/processes.
- Clean the Lobby: Daily: push chairs under tables, disinfect tables, stack games and videos in alphabetical order, place remote control on the coffee table, scrub fingerprints off walls, mop floor, recycle old newspapers, straighten magazines on tables, empty garbage, empty dish tub, fill candy dish.
- Clean the Lobby: Weekly: wash windows, water and prune plants, place full tissue boxes on tables, dust pictures and furniture, purge outdated resource items, vacuum furniture,
Discuss with your staff how implementing a comprehensive check list will enhance the guest experience. In particular, pay attention to the emotional experience of the guest.
3. Be succinct and use general terms when framing a problem. State the goal by using only a verb, preposition and noun. For example, "Decrease expenses in snow removal." "Increase participation in our crafting retreat." When goals are simply stated, it is easier to consider various approaches and develop an actionable list to support your desired outcomes.