July 26, 2009, 9:37 PM — The recession is in full swing, and companies everywhere are feeling the pain. Yours is likely no exception. Shrinking budgets, sweeping layoffs, and a smothering malaise that's settled over your workforce make it hard to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, even the most optimistic leader finds him or herself wondering, Is there an end to this particular tunnel? Sure there is, says Kimberly Douglas, but you're going to have to excavate it yourself—and you're going to have to light your own way.
"Innovation is the only ticket out of this recession," asserts Douglas, author of The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results. "I believe this is true for America as a whole and it's certainly true for the individual organizations that make up our nation.
"I'm not just talking about product development," she clarifies. "I'm talking about new services, business processes, means of communication, and methods of collaboration. Companies that can churn out innovative ideas—good, workable innovative ideas—will be able to adapt to the new realities we face. Those that can't, won't."
The heart of innovation, of course, is people working together eagerly, intelligently, and productively. When this synergy happens, ideas pour forth like water from a newly tapped underground spring—or, as Douglas puts it, like fireflies showing up en masse at dusk. Innovation is all about good teamwork. It's really that simple. And it's what The Firefly Effect is all about.
Douglas teaches leaders how to discover and apply creativity within their own teams to get results. She uses a firefly metaphor—the image of children working together to catch these glowing creatures—to illustrate how successful teams use their individual talents collectively to focus on critical business challenges.
"If you're like many leaders, you have a group of shell-shocked lay-off 'survivors' who are wandering around lost in a state of general worry and angst about the economy," she says. "You can use innovation principles to direct their anxious energy toward solving critical problems for the company. It helps them; it helps you; it helps everyone."
So how can you deliberately create a more innovative culture—call it "Operation Firefly"—at your company? While you'd have to read the book to get the complete picture, Douglas offers the following tips to help you get started: