We spend a lot of time talking about how to improve the business processes of capturing a print order (web to print), processing a print order (production workflow), invoicing a print order (print MIS), etc… There is a lot of efficiency to be gained by evaluating the various business processes involved in print and driving costs out of the equation.
I want to talk about the need for relieving the other side of the equation, the sales side. The way I look at it, you can focus your efforts on increasing the business from your existing customers, getting more customers like your existing ones, or going after different markets – one of which might be thinking up new reasons to print.
Thinking up new reasons to print sounds a bit farfetched doesn’t it? I’ve been consulting for businesses and individuals who have nothing to do with the print industry lately. We operate in a print industry bubble, assuming people know all the innovations that have occurred in print over the last few decades. Let me tell you, they don’t, and when I touch on just a few things, they get as excited as people do about new media.
We need to be looking at the world through our industry perspective and find new reasons to print. Ideas are messy; they don’t come on schedule, during organized conference room sessions, nor do they care about the hierarchy in your organization – hint elicit ideas from everyone and listen carefully!
Here’s a brilliant presentation about idea generation, if you’ve been reading my blog regularly you’ve figured out I’m a TED Talk junkie. I haven’t watched a video from TED and not been inspired in some way or learned something – most often both.
Ideas don’t happen in isolation, they have more in common with a mosh pit than a library. I love what Steve Johnson calls a “slow hunch” which is incubated over time and several hunches are connected together to finally create an idea. I use this killer software program called Evernote to track virtually everything I learn about (of course it’s FREE). If I read a book and take some notes, they go in Evernote, if I watch a TED video and take some notes – they go in Evernote. I have a repository of hunches which can be searched, categorized, and accessed from by computer or my iPhone.
How do you create an idea generating organization or individual? Accept that idea generation doesn’t fit into our working hours, meeting schedules, or organization charts. Ideas are like the open source movement – the best ones are created via interconnected networks. “Chance favors the connected mind” says Steve Johnson. We have a lot of stories about employees asked to suggest improvements or enter idea contests and the results are huge savings or huge revenue generation because of it.
Did you know the color copy calendar came from a Kinko’s best idea contest? It was submitted by a front line employee at one of the retail stores. The results of this idea have probably generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Kinko’s and the overall print industry (new reasons to print). The real brilliance is that the color calendar was a new product that utilized all the equipment that was already present in a standard copy and print shop.
Why do we need to think of new reasons to print? Because the world is actively and aggressively thinking of new ways of communicating via digital media, the key is in the ideas. Here’s three things I would do to encourage idea generation inside your own head or inside your organization.
- Get out and consume content outside our industry. Ideas favor diversity and quantity of interactions. The web presents an incredibly efficient and convenient way of consuming more content, but interacting with people is even better.
- Challenge your team to step out of the operational focus and consider an innovation focus. There is no wrong answer here – this is critical. Walt Disney used to have (2) rooms, the green room was for idea generation, absolutely no criticism or evaluation allowed (dreamers only). The red room was where they sifted through the ideas to find the gems. You can kill idea generation real quick by evaluating too soon. Let people dream even if it sounds crazy (most new ideas are crazy). If people in your organization can’t remove their critic cap – don’t invite them to dream, put people where they can do their best work.
- Listen, listen, listen, and take notes. Our minds have more RAM than accessible hard disk space. Don’t assume you’ll remember anything, collect it because it might be the start of the “slow hunch” that turns into something big.