Friday, February 27, 2004

Innovation: Fire in the belly, heart and mind

Business Times p. B8
Friday, February 27, 2004

By Moje Ramos-Aquino
Innovation: Fire in the belly, heart and mind

WHEN I was preparing for my church wedding many moons ago, I was advised to have in my trousseau something old, something blue, something borrowed and something new.

Something old was underwear I was comfy with. Something blue were a tiny blue-and-white trinket for good luck and for my mood that day because I just couldn’t wear make-up without itching all over and they put a dollop on my face including false eyelashes. Something borrowed was a set of jewelry from my mom which eventually became mine. Something new were everything else and the whole new life in front of me--a married life, a life outside the apron of my mother and the comfort of the old home, albeit, an exciting one.

Since then every time I do something for the first time, I remember this advice.

The first time I became an entrepreneur, I had the same feelings and experience. Something old were my experiences, competencies, references, database and other materials to start my management consulting business. In many cases, entrepreneurs entering the food business bring with them secret family recipes to start with. Max’s and Aristocrat, for example.

In his book Beyond Teams, Dr. R. Meredith Belbin describes “blue” as the language of tradition that could be associated with the formal means of dispensing instructions. Dr. Belbin further reminds us that the color of the sea is blue and when sailing all things need to be “shipshape.” So also an enterprise, in order to be in shipshape condition, need to be formally organized and registered with the proper government regulatory bodies like the Department of Trade and Industry, Securities & Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Social Security System, Philhealth, Pag-ibig and others. It is also becoming accredited with ISO or other international standardizing bodies.

Something borrowed means that an entrepreneur need not reinvent the wheel. There are so many successful business models and practices ready for benchmarking. So borrow or buy. We’ll discuss this at length in future columns.

Finally, something new is the fresh new presence you bring into the business scene and in the life of your customers. Something new is not simply new, but being different.

Michael Porter, author and Harvard professor, observed that strategy is about making choices. It is about deliberately choosing to be different.

One very important Key Result Area (KRA) which all business should pursue is “Innovation.” And your Strategic Goal (SG) is to inject something new into your business at every opportunity throughout your entrepreneurial life. Your past successes do not guarantee future success. Otherwise, as Morrie Schwartz warned Mitch Albom, “When in bed, you’re dead.”

Robert J. Kriegel in his book, If It Ain’t Broke—Break It!, wrote: “Today’s skills, knowledge, and products live fast, get old before their time, and die young. We are all being asked to learn, do the produce more with less money, fewer resources, and no time to spare.”

Author and former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca had this to say: “I have to take risks everyday. I’d rather not, but the world doesn’t give me that option.”

In the film Apollo 13, the spacecraft had life-threatening problems on its way to the moon. Actually the problem was there for years, undetected under reams and reams of procedures. What did NASA Control Center and astronauts Ken Mattingly, James Lovell Jr., John Swigert Jr., and Fred Haise Jr., do? They abandoned procedures, enlisted everybody’s assistance and came up with very innovative solutions such as the CO2 suction thingy. The crew came back alive, though unable to step on the moon.

Don’t wait for a crisis to be innovative. As entrepreneurs, that is your edge over them oldies-not-necessarily-goldies business people. You have fresh eyes, ears, nose, smell and feel for learning. That’s the only way you could compete and excel. To compete in terms of capital and price is trying to beat them at their own game and rules.

Entrepreneurial companies continuously push the envelope, celebrate mistakes and are open to learning. They don’t strive to do things right for the first time. They devote time and resources to creative, analytical, strategic and transformative thinking. They are dynamic, living companies. One of their KRAs is “innovation” and they put their money where their mouth is.

Choosing “Innovation” as your KRA is akin to putting fire in the belly, heart and mind of your employees. It is giving them permission to interact with their peripheral and remote environment and to pursue possibilities. It is giving your business extra power to maneuver in the fast lane.

Jim Collins says they make the leap and go from good to great and cites Abbott, Gillette, Kimberly-Clark, Walgreens and Fannie Mae as examples.

The caveat is that you don’t tamper with your business driver. Learn from the experience of Coke—a definite product-driven company—when they changed the classic formula of their cola drink.

ASTD 2004. The ASTD International Conference this May 23-27 in Washington D.C. presents a program that will guide, challenge and expand your horizons in a variety of tracks: Careers—Guiding Yours, Guiding Others; E-Learning; Leadership and Management Development; Learning as a Business Strategy; Measurement and Evaluation; Organizational Culture and Change; Performance Improvement; Personal and Professional Effectiveness and Training and Specialized Training Programs.

In each of these nine tracks, sessions will address global issues, leading-edge information, emerging trends and innovative approaches. Go to for details. Use our Delegation Code (10429860) to register and avail of discounted delegation rate. Grace Victoriano will be happy to assist you at telephone 715-9332.

(Moje Ramos-Aquino, president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp., consults on Strategic Thinking and Planning and Innovation initiatives. Her email address is

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