She was preparing to go to a party but could not find the right undergarments to smooth out those oh so beautiful body wrinkles we all have. White pants made it even worse and she was determined to feel confident in her outfit. She cut the feet off her pantyhose and headed out on the town. Make-shifting something was a quick idea and it solved the issue she faced that night. She thought, “this needs to exist for women”; she knew she couldn’t be the only one facing that problem, and many others could also benefit from a similar type of product.
By now you’ve probably guessed this was Sarah Blakely’s experience as she started down the path of becoming the owner and founder of Spanx. She was an independent sales representative at the time and had no experience or knowledge in the hosiery industry. The idea popped into her head, she tested it out and it helped her so much that evening that she knew she had to chase it down. Women all across the world thank her for doing so and it has resulted in astronomical growth for Spanx.
Hearing this story it can be easy to assume this is a one in a million idea, but these ideas happen daily in environments fostered to allow them. When teams are feeling safe enough to share crazy ideas this is how companies are able to grow and stand out from the crowd. Embodying a belief that no idea is a bad idea is a great start to creating an environment surrounding innovation.
Sarah was able to come up with the idea for Spanx because she was presented with a problem and then, in a quiet space, followed her thoughts. Quiet isn’t often aligned with business but it is an important part of fostering creativity that supports growth. Creativity comes to full fruition when the creators are allowed space to be quiet. This doesn’t always mean meditating or having no one else around, it means allowing schedules to have downtime or what we like to refer to as “creative time”. Back-to-back meetings do not allow for creativity to spark and thus you continue to do things the way you have always done them just to get through the day. Fostering an environment focused on growth requires you to create space for creativity. When your team is only focused on shifting from one meeting to the next and making sure all their tasks are completed, you aren’t providing them opportunities to be creative. This causes you to fail to grow at a rate you could have.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but more often than not it has resulted in growth for humankind. Another great way to foster an environment focused on growth is to encourage curiosity by asking questions. Asking curious questions such as why or why not will start to spark problem-solving innovation. This will challenge your team to become more open-minded and look at their own ideas from a different perspective.