If you or your friends have young children, you’ll no doubt be familiar with their offspring’s works of arts proudly displayed around the home. Whether finger paintings on the fridge, popsicle structures on the mantle-piece or clay creations on the window-sill – parents are proud of their children’s work, and love to prominently promote their creative works.
This pride continues as individual’s age, with anything that they produce gaining a special place in their environment. For example, if you enjoy riding and repairing motor-bikes, there is something intangibly greater about the bike that you are currently crafting when compared to another bike of the exact same make and model.
The difference is one of ownership and creativity – the bike you are working on is your bike, not just any bike.
When we have ownership of something, we invest some of our identity in it and do our best to make it thrive. If we rent a car, and the car breaks down – we get angry at the rental company. If, however, it is a car that you are working on and fixing up, then you will not feel anger at the company. Instead, you may feel shame at its failure, or a strong resolve to pour more time and effort into fixing it.
Ownership & Identity
This link between ownership and identity is essential for the modern business to understand.
Some organisations, such as IKEA, do an excellent job of linking ownership with their consumption model, creating consumers who form a special bond with their products.
One of the key features of IKEA is the self-assembly of their products. When you buy a table or a chair, you get all the parts but then must construct it yourself. This may seem like a limitation or a frustration of IKEA – but it is actually one of their competitive advantages. When you make an IKEA product, you gain a sense of creative ownership of the product. This is not just any table – this is a table that you have made.
Similarly, Rocketspark – a great NZ web-design company – have a strategy involving DIY (Do It Yourself) websites. They have created an intuitive website builder, that allows you to enter text and images, design the style and match colour palettes in a way that looks great – but is still directed by you. Again, this may seem like extra work – but it is a strong part of their competitive advantage. A Rocketspark website is not just another website; it is a website that you built. As such, you will want the website to be the best it can be.
Lessons 4 Innovative Business
This theory and examples lead to two important lessons for innovative businesses:
Co-Create with Consumers
Look for ways that you can encourage consumers to take ownership of your products and services. Ask – “How can consumers contribute to the production process?”. This will require innovative thinking, and could lead to restaurants where customers bring along the ingredients for chefs to use, cars that allow the owners to design the finish, or software that is customisable in unique ways. Not only may this save you costs, but it will also create a dynamic relationship between your product or service, and your end user.
The link between ownership and innovation can be clearly seen in entrepreneurs. They have a dream, they strive and innovate to make that dream a reality. Their sense of identity and excitement can come from this sense of ownership. Too often, however, they do not try and share this ownership with their employees, creating a workforce that may do the job well, but will not have this same drive to innovate and succeed.
Instead, look for ways to share ownership with your employees. This can be done in small ways – such as giving departments license to transform in ways they see as beneficial. For example, give your call-centre a budget and time to imagine ways that they could do their job better – rather than imposing ways on them. Coach and guide them through this process, but allow them ownership of their work domain.
Other ways this can be practiced is through profit-sharing benefit systems, or open-book management – all techniques that can help create ownership and grow innovation within your organisation.
image credit: ikea.com
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Jeremy Suisted is a Creativity Trainer and Innovation Consultant based in New Zealand. With a background in corporate communication, media studies and education, Jeremy has his finger on the pulse of the latest research in innovation and creativity – and is continually exploring how to link the latest findings to practical, teachable techniques. You can contact him through his consultancy website – www.creativate.co.nz