Tag Archive for 'creativity'

Do you know which brain hemisphere is your nigh ox?

Watching a television program about how American pioneers trained and employed oxen in the 19th century reminded me of how our brains work.

Like a yoke of oxen, our bilateral brain hemispheres are hitched side-by-side, meeting the world head-on. But also like the bovine, they don’t always pull together.

In addition to their names, oxen are also identified by their position in the yoke: the animal most favored by the driver is the nigh ox, always on the left, while the off ox is always on the right. The nigh ox is usually the senior animal and takes the lead in pulling the load.

Brain hemispheres also have names - left and right. For most of us, one or the other is our nigh hemisphere as it seems to be the most dominant in our behavior, but we favor it more because of who we are than its location. So for effect and for fun, I’ll be referring to our brain hemispheres as our nigh ox, and our off ox.

According to experts, when we think more logically, rationally, and analytically, like an engineer, the left hemisphere is the dominant, nigh ox. For someone who’s more creative, intuitive, subjective, and emotive, the right hemisphere is pulling the hardest as our nigh ox. Gender also seems to play a role in our nigh/off predisposition. But I’m leaving that angle alone today as a tangent potentially fraught with peril - for me.

All of this brain stuff might be unremarkable to small business owners if it weren’t for two things: 1) As leaders, we’re called upon to perform and respond to issues that are closer to our off ox than our nigh ox; 2) regardless of our nigh ox, we have to work with those whose behavior favors the other side of the brain yoke. Let’s take a look at examples of how these two realities manifest in the marketplace and in our small businesses.

As a small business owner, you likely won’t have the luxury of favoring one ox over the other for very long. Regardless of which brain hemisphere is your nigh ox, any given day is filled with demands on both, and often simultaneously. For example, developing a marketing campaign causes the right brain to take the lead with creativity. But your left brain will be pressed into service by the cold, hard analysis of media buys, demographic strategy, and ultimately, operational fulfillment of the business your plan generated.

The good news is that as your business grows, you can look forward to delegating your off ox work to an employee whose oxen are opposite yours. But as the leader, the small business reality is that you must be able to successfully work and do business with people whose nigh ox is your off ox. For example:

If your nigh ox is right-brain creativity, you still have to employ, manage, and work with left-brain accountants and engineers.

If your nigh ox is the by-the-numbers, detailed analysis-loving left brain, you’ll have to suffer gladly the seemingly non-linear expressions of those whose nigh ox pulls from the right side of the yoke. Indeed, a critical counter-balancing trait your nigh ox desperately requires.

But all of that is inside the organization. Outside your four walls, you have to be able to quickly assess which ox any particular prospect or customer favors. For example you no doubt sell stuff desired by customers of both ox yoke configuration. Even though the two groups buy the same product or service, they likely lead their purchasing process with the side of the brain that’s nigh to them. Consequently, regardless of which ox is nigh to you, you’ll need selling skills to help you lead with the other.

Although in the minority, there are whole-brain individuals whose brain hemispheres pull together, like having two nigh oxen. Members of this group are naturally well-suited for small business. But whether by protoplasm or by practice, more than any corporate CEO, a small business CEO has to perform like a whole-brainer to deal with the bi-polar demands of the workplace and the marketplace.

Write this on a rock … Small business owners are required to behave as if they have two nigh oxen.

Lead a vision and a business

As an entrepreneur, you are your organization’s visionary - the creator of the dream, and the energy and spirit behind its fulfillment. As the operator of the business you’ve created to deliver your dream, you are the steady hand, the voice of reason, the challenge master, and the bull’s eye where the proverbial buck stops.
The great French writer, Victor Hugo could have been talking about us when he wrote, “The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than the real. It is by the real that we exist, it is by the ideal that we live.”
In your role as an entrepreneur, you have greater need of the ideal, which is your vision, your passion.  As the operator of your business, it is by the real that you exist, which are the operating fundamentals you must practice.
You must be able to move successfully between these two dimensions as you create, operate and grow your businesses successfully. Too much ideal and you have no critical mass.  Too much real and you have nothing new, too little excitement, and probably not much fun.
The ideal and the real:  Create - operate - have fun.

The unique ability of entrepreneurs

One of the traits of an entrepreneur is a passionate desire for more - to discover and acquire more information, more efficiency, more productivity, more capability, more speed and yes, sometimes even more money and stuff.

But entrepreneurs don’t own the franchise on this trait. Lots of people WANT more. It’s just that entrepreneurs set themselves apart from others because they actually have the ability to create more. God bless entrepreneurs because, without their vision, courage, energy, and passion to create more, many of the things that enrich our lives would not exist.

It’s important that our world creates the fertile soil in which entrepreneurship can grow. Fertile entrepreneurial soil is where accomplishment is recognized, courage is admired, passion is encouraged, ideas can be openly debated and where truth is valued.

And entrepreneurs are not just found in the traditional marketplace. You can find them in education, in medicine, in research and yes, even in government. All species of entrepreneurs should be allowed to flourish wherever you find them.

But if you are having trouble finding an entrepreneur, the quickest way to solve that problem is to go hang out with small business owners.

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Knowledge and creativity: small business owners need both

Knowledge and creativity are the dynamic duo of entrepreneurship. Armed with these two, small business owners deal with challenges and carve out new opportunities.

Sometimes we address challenges by using what we’ve learned, and then move on to the next one. That’s the beauty of knowledge; it’s always loaded up, ready to fire. It’s also useful because we can share it by teaching others, which allows us to delegate, thereby leveraging ourselves.

But entrepreneurship based solely on knowledge is mono-faceted and most small business challenges require multi-faceted approaches, which only occurs when knowledge is blended with creativity. Knowledge is critical to success in any endeavor, but in the world of entrepreneurs, creativity must flourish.

The French novelist, Marcel Ayme, once said, “…from time-to-time, I find myself terribly limited by the words in the dictionary.”

As a man of words, the dictionary held his knowledge, his tools and his inventory. But sometimes, as he lamented, it also held back his creativity. I think Ayme was also telling us about his spirit. What else would cause him to imagine and yearn for something beyond what he knew to exist?

Entrepreneurs have Ayme’s kind of spirit. As founders of business opportunities that haven’t previously existed, our spirit drives us into uncharted territory. But we’re more fortunate than Ayme: We aren’t limited by a “dictionary”, only by our creativity.

If you’re feeling “terribly limited” by your entrepreneurial dictionary, perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on knowledge and not enough on creativity.

Entrepreneurs use knowledge to identify and employ the “words” that are available to them. But rather than lamenting the ones they don’t have, they use creativity to make the new ones they need. It’s a beautiful thing.

What small business can learn from Google

WWGD? No, this isn’t some new twist on a religious question. Or is it?

This acronym stands for “What Would Google Do?” which is the title of the new book by renowned blogging pioneer and 21st century media expert, Jeff Jarvis. In his book, Jeff doesn’t go so far as to say Google’s influence is tantamount to a religious movement, but almost.

Unlike Yahoo, Google isn’t a portal, as Jeff explains in the book; it’s a network. He reminds us of what we really already know but may have forgotten: Google doesn’t want to control the content you seek; it just wants to help you find what you seek and manage it once you’ve found it. And he also reminds us that the best content in the world is useless unless it can be found, and that’s where Google comes in.

One of the many things small business owners can learn from Google is how to manage mistakes in the creative process. In his book, Jeff reveals how Google manages its creative process through beta offerings, where users contribute to what is announced up-front as a work in progress. The creative and development process is composed of many decisions resulting in smaller mistakes leading to micro-adjustments, the discovery of which is contributed to significantly by Google users, who are its customers.

Imagine that: customer-influenced product development. There’s a 21st century success strategy that entrepreneurs at all levels of the marketplace would do well to employ.

But with all of its success, which on many levels is unprecedented, everything Google touches doesn’t turn to gold. Recently, Google abandoned unsuccessful campaigns that sold ads on radio and in newspapers. One of the things Jeff likes about Google is that when something doesn’t work out, it’s often right out there for all to see. So if we pay attention, you and I can benefit by discovering what not to do.

Recently, Jeff Jarvis (buzzmachine.com) was a guest on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. He talked about what makes Google unique and what we can learn from where this company has been and where it plans to go, including the potential of mobile platforms. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to what this expert has to say. And be sure to leave your own comments.

Small business and quantum leap service

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, business owners could count their competitors on the fingers of one hand; and they were all neighbors. You could deliver a product or service to a customer, take their money, say “thank you” and, assuming you performed on-time and as promised, could expect them to come right back to you when they needed to make their next purchase.

Well, wasn’t that another fun trip down memory lane?

Here in the 21st century, with consumers and businesses seeming to have more purchasing options – combining traditional and on-line – for whatever they need or want than the numbers in the value of pi, how does a small business hope to compete in the global marketplace?

Well, it turns out that meeting this challenge is not only easy, but can actually be accomplished with little or no budget; and here’s the best news: No one can do it better and more consistently than a small business. I’m talking about delivering service that is so outrageous that it’s a quantum leap above the kind in that long-ago time mentioned earlier and is at a level that blows the doors off of the classic, “value-added service.”

Two of my Brain Trust members, Chip Bell and John Patterson, world-class customer care experts and authors of Customer Loyalty Guaranteed, call this new service level “Imaginative Service.” And your imagination shouldn’t stop until, as they say, you’ve “taken your customer’s breath away.” Here’s an example and it happened to me:

I went to a local supermarket and picked something up at the fish counter. I asked that person where something unrelated to her work was in the store. Not only did she tell me which aisle it was on; but she walked out of her department and, virtually taking me by the hand, led me to the product I asked about. Now, regular service was having what I wanted in stock; value-added service was this lady knowing something that was out of her area. But what this employee did for me was outrageous, breath-taking, imaginative service. Guess where I buy all of my groceries?

Chip and John joined me on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, recently to talk about this topic, which I think is one of the keys to survival for small businesses over the next 12 months. And let me repeat: It costs virtually nothing. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation – you won’t be disappointed. And be sure to leave a comment and especially an example of breath-taking service you’ve performed or received.

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