Innovate, be creative, says Peter Isler in ‘Rule six – push the limits,’ a chapter in ‘At the Helm: Business lessons for navigating rough waters’ (www.macmillanpublishersindia.com).

He avers that every product can be improved; every service can be provided to customers and clients better, more efficiently, and more effectively; every customer can experience an even better relationship with your firm and its employees. “Innovation and creativity allow you and your employees to constantly push the limits of the status quo and find ever-better ways to serve your customers and your shareholders.”

He compares Japan and the US, in terms of number of suggestions received annually from employees to improve work processes. While Japanese companies get hundreds of such suggestions, the tally for the US is ‘one suggestion per seven employees per year.’

The difference is not due to the level of creativity, reasons Schoemer. “Not enough managers sincerely value employee innovation and creativity, preferring instead employees who do what they are told and rock the boat as little as possible.”

An example of a new concept quoted in the book is of ‘untended booths in malls where you can go in and you push buttons and on the video monitor you’ll see various tennis shoes.’ You decide what shoe you want to buy, then you stand on a lighted plate and it automatically records your foot size – actually, both feet, because they’re very often quite different… The idea is you can have the shoes delivered to your house the next day, without your having to set foot in a store!

Another advice in the same chapter is on saving a little horsepower. “If you race sailboats for any length of time at all, you’ll quickly learn that you don’t need to blow everyone off the racecourse to win the race – you simply need to cross the finish line before anyone else.” Why so? Because, by calibrating your victories, you can save energy and resources – precious commodities for your next race – explains the author.

He cites Malin Burnham, for the invaluable reasoning that by saving a little dry powder for the next time, you are not too noticeable to your competition. “If they think you just got lucky and won that race by one boat length, even though you might have been able to win it by fifty boat lengths, then you don’t become as much of a target.” Similarly, in business, you don’t need to be way out ahead; you just need to be on top!

Recommended addition to the discerning readers’ shelf.

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