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Why the right brain ignites success


BY MICHAEL J. PALLERINO

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. – ALBERT EINSTEIN

ark Donnolo doesn’t believe that thinking “outside of the box” inspires creativity. Creativity often is perceived to be about breaking through boundaries and replacing familiarity with innovation. But saying this to highly effective employees is like offering vegetables to a pack of wolves – it’s the wrong context. The managing partner of SalesGlobe, which helps companies connect their sales strategies to their bottom lines, says that when you take away your employees’ “box,” which represents tried-and-true processes and technical specs, you inadvertently create a major constraint – not being able to conduct business in a way that is familiar to them. Rather than promoting new thinking by creating an "outside of the box" environment, Donnolo recommends identifying a company’s creativity need – boosting functional creativity, which has constraints, but is targeted toward an issue or objective, or artistic creativity, which has minimal or no constraints and is targeted toward expression. Take, for example, the notion of coaching sales reps to think like artists. Using a right-brain approach helps them address the needs of today’s customer. This much we know – when it comes to sales, organizations always are looking for an edge. It’s how they differentiate themselves from their competitors and win deals. Unfortunately, Donnolo admits that sales organizations too often develop strategies and solutions that repeat the same old practices. That “do-what-has-been-done-before” approach can leave them vulnerable in today’s ultra-competitive business climate. “When it comes to strategies, salespeople usually veer toward one of two extremes – operating analytically or by the seat of their pants,” says Donnolo, who also wrote “The Innovative Sale,” which examines how to integrate the right-brain aptitude for innovation with the left-brain affinity for logic and process. “As sales organizations develop solutions for their businesses, they certainly have plenty of left-brain models,” Donnolo says. “But these models don’t help us to innovate. Salespeople can build upon their natural intuitive abilities with a right-brain model – a creative process to develop better customer solutions and sales strategies.”


Whether or not you can be creative depends on whether or not you choose to, or if you are empowered to act on those things you would do differently.” – MARK MONTINI, CEO, PROMIO The process begins by defining the specific sales challenge and considering all the current solutions, including what competitors are doing or the way someone used to do it. Once the tried-and-true ideas have been acknowledged, Donnolo says it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and consider unrelated ideas – how problems are solved in other industries, in other cultures, in other periods of history. “This is the discovery phase, and it’s what most people skip when they go through a typical brainstorming session,” Donnolo says. “Most jump straight to the final stage – application, where tried-andtrue ideas usually are plugged in. Every couple of weeks, I get calls from clients asking how companies in their industry implement cross-selling or how they motivate their sales teams. But they don’t really want to know how other companies are doing it. They want to know what to do, because right before they called me, they were grasping for solutions and replicating the status quo.”

“An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.” – Edward de Bono The simplest approach to stoking the fires of creativity is to find strategies that take you beyond those “been-theredone-that” approaches. And most times, that process is harder than it has to be. Mark Montini, CEO of marketing-technology company Promio, believes that creativity simply is approaching something from a unique perspective. Think about it, and you will agree with Montini when he says that there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t see several things daily they would do differently. It can be as simple as how to speed up the line at the local Starbucks or as profound as a new brand position for a large corporation. “Everyone is creative, every day,” Montini says. “Whether or not you can be creative depends on whether or not you choose to, or if you are empowered to act on those things you would do differently.

Everyone has the ability to be creative but being creative is determined by whether or not you act.” From a leadership perspective, it’s about providing an environment where your employees are empowered to act on their creativity. And that means building a culture that embraces cleverness and the mistakes that come with it. One of Montini’s friends works for a company that regularly rewards employees who advocated concepts that ultimately failed. In addition to handing out rewards for achievement in various areas, it also presents awards for the best ideas that didn't succeed in the end. “It really illustrated that the company valued creativity and fully embraced the reality that failure is the primary risk” Montini says. “If you build a culture of fear, you’ll find that the status quo reigns. In my opinion, ‘management/process’ and ‘creativity’ are mutually exclusive. Creativity comes from empowerment and management/process, by definition,


is about providing clear direction and control. So, trying to manage creativity requires stifling it.” Montini believes leaders should cast a vision that provides the framework to make creativity productive. If employees know the company values inventive ideas and is willing to accept the mistakes that result from it, they will feel empowered to be creative. “At the end of the day, creativity from one inspires creativity from others, and the end result are solutions that have tremendous impact.”

“Creativity is the soul of the true scholar.” – Nnamdi Azikiwe Just how important is creativity to the success of a business? Lynne Vincent, assistant professor of management at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, says that twothirds of Fortune 100 companies mention creativity or innovation in their mission or vision statements.

“Creativity is the production of an idea, solution or product that is novel and useful,” Vincent says. “It can be a very positive force. Creativity is a skill that can be learned similar to mathematics or logic. While some people may have a natural propensity for creative thought, people can learn the underlying skills for creative thought.” Tapping in to the creative vein is why companies like Google and IDEO have been able to inspire the masses. “Organizations recognize the power and potential of creativity,” Vincent says. “Research has consistently found that leadership behaviors affect employee creativity. The trick is to know how to appropriately manage and avoid micromanaging. While leaders are undeniably important, leaders will not be successful unless they have employees with relevant skills, knowledge and abilities.”

When it comes to strategies, salespeople usually veer toward one of two extremes – operating analytically or by the seat of their pants.” – MARK DONNOLO, MANAGING PARTNER, SALESGLOBE

Knock, knock. Who’s there? Creativity … In his book, “The Innovative Sale,” Mark Donnolo shows how a left-brained thinking process helps generate right-brain innovation. Donnolo says companies need the structure of such a method to address the range of variables that challenge constraints such as time, product, price and organizational capabilities, among others. Here are some actionable ideas that can help push you into a phase of discovering new ideas: Get comfortable with feeling lost. Push beyond what you know.

Assemble the right team. Define roles and include alternative views.

Combine unrelated ideas. Find parallels from different sources.

Collaborate as an individual. Avoid group thinking.

Become a student of history. The past is a great source of parallels.

Understand other perspectives. Embrace diversity on your team.

Produce an abundance of ideas. Think broadly beyond the status quo.

Get comfortable with criticism. Expect the skeptics to divert you.

Think in divergent directions. Include variety in your ideas.

Don’t accept the accepted. Push beyond and ask why.

Know that less is more. Bring your solution to its essence.

Walk away from the problem. Allow your mind to create new combinations and epiphany moments.

Grow with the flow. Don’t rush the process. Be patient and allow ideas to evolve. Ask the right questions. Questions are more powerful than statements. Use them intentionally. Be persistent. Don’t be dissuaded by doubt. The best innovators encounter resistance. Check degrees of change. Understand how your idea will fit with and enhance the current state.

Stoking Creativity  
Stoking Creativity  
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