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Cutting Edge

Posted on   March 24, 2015 12:05 pm by  Shaun Mannix  No Comments

 

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So, why start a blog post with a picture of a flying car…or maybe it’s a driving airplane. Hard to say. I find the ambiguity of it intriguing.

Beyond the intrigue of the ambiguity, when I saw this amazing vehicle I got thinking about creativity and innovation and what it takes to keep from getting complacent in your success. I got thinking about the state of thinking of the people behind the development of this breakthrough idea.

How differently are they thinking than all the people on our team?  The idea of a flying car can generate interest and sustainable levels of excitement. But walls? Not so exciting…I first thought.

Then my thinking shifted to the challenges facing other people who don’t forge careers involved with such grandiose concepts as flying vehicles.  What is it like to work for one of the many companies responsible for helping their toothpaste company come up with minty and fresh new ideas of providing dental hygiene. Or, people at work on improving the breakfast cereal experience?

At Transwall we make, install and service…walls. Glass walls, steel walls, laminate walls, double walls. They are thoughtfully designed and together offer options, durability and very high value. They are brought to market by some of the most talented and committed people you will find, but still, they’re walls. When I was recently walking around Washington DC and saw the flying car, I repeatedly considered how enthusiasm and creativity is maintained in most other business with presumably lesser inventive challenges. Really, how could we at Transwall possibly be as creative and innovative when we make…walls?

We’re great at figuring out how to improve what we do in incremental ways. Refine door design to better address acoustic issues, adapt standard hardware for unique specification requirements, and even repurpose an 11 year old modular product from retail store fixture to a highly effective acoustical barrier/wall. What can we do to make that quantum leap into brand new ideas? Driving Planes/Flying Cars?

I decided creativity had to start right at the top…with me. I needed to let everyone know that I was interested in having them come up with creative and innovative ideas for our business. Actually, not only interested but encouraging and expecting them to wow me with their ideas. Some would be good, some not so good, every now and then one would be spectacular.
Everyone was encouraged to share their ideas. No penalties for the silly ones but rewards for the good ones.

At first it was slow. Then the idea flow sped up. Now we have a company full of people always thinking about not just ways to improve what we already do but also about what we can do that we haven’t done before to build our business and fill customer needs.

I must admit, we haven’t come up with something to compare to the flying car…yet. But we have come up with ideas that have led to a quantum leap for Transwall, our clients, and everyone else we touch.

My learning? Creativity and innovation need to be inculcated into your organization. You need to build a culture that encourages and rewards new ideas even if at first they seem crazy. Each and every person, starting at the top, needs to be thinking all the time about how to both improve existing while watching for the completely new. Creativity and innovation live everywhere, the tough thing is noticing them, having the courage to grab them when they appear, and the willingness to completely shake things up in spite of the risk.

Once we broke out of our box, amazing things began to happen and continue to happen as we re-imagine Transwall, our products, our customers, and the way we do what we do. The flying vehicle got me thinking about airplanes. I’ve been flying quite a bit and for the first time ever began to think about how each and every airplane has walls…

 

 

Piano Player Wanted

Posted on   March 10, 2015 10:05 am by  Shaun Mannix  No Comments

One of the more enjoyable things about running a national business is the opportunity I have to travel around the country. Travel really does broaden the mind. You move out of your normal environment and leave your comfort zone. It gives you a chance to see how other people do things…and how so often they do the same thing totally differently.

I find that when I return from a convention or visiting customers in faraway places, I have new ideas and a new way of looking at the same old things. Sometimes the ideas are good, sometimes not, but it always gives me ideas to investigate about how we might do things better.

Sometimes I see things that get me thinking not just about improving some small thing but about how to run the whole business better.  It’s great to find ways to improve our already high quality walls and related products, but even better when I find ways to improve the entire business…which, of course, leads to even better results for our customers.

On a recent trip I noticed this sign in a restaurant:

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When I first noticed it I was amused. I wondered what the odds are of finding a good piano player who also happens to be good at opening clams. Beyond that, what are the odds of finding a good piano player who wants to open clams?

Then I took a close look at the wording of the sign and realized it doesn’t actually say they want a piano player to open clams, just a piano player with knowledge of opening clams. Quite a different thing.

This got me thinking about language and how I use it, am I clear or confusing? Since the sign was about a job opening, I wondered how clearly we post job openings. One thought led to another and soon I was thinking about the wide implication of clarity in language and its impact on quality and accurate understanding of customer requirements.

How about our communication in general, written as well as spoken? Are some of the things that don’t seem to go as planned because the communication about them was poorly worded? How clear are our procedures, advertisements, emails, specifications?

If we’re unclear or ambiguous in our language, probably our customers and prospects, vendors and contractors, and others we deal with have the same problem. Lack of clarity everywhere.

Not a happy thought. But a very useful thought as it has led me to look at Transwall communication with a more critical eye. I’m working to ensure everything we say means exactly what we intend it to mean. It also has me making sure right at the beginning we fully understand what we hear from those who communicate with us…like customers and prospects.

We’re already the best at what we do – walls. With our new understanding about ensuring absolute clarity in all our communication, we’re expecting to get even better.

As for that restaurant in need of music and kitchen help, I keep wondering if they would rather have a mediocre piano player who is great at opening clams or a great piano player who eventually manages to expose the meat inside the shell.