Every growing business can stimulate and reward new ideas by sponsoring brainstorming retreats away from the office. Finding a tranquil, neutral location where a half-dozen of your best people can interact with thinkers and prodders from other industries is a good way to start.
Don’t try to run these meetings yourself. Get a professional – someone who runs such retreats for a living – to organize the event. Build a loose structure around questions like these:
How can we generate more customers?
How can we sell more products to our existing customer base?
How can we improve the quality of our products?
How can we improve our customer service?
How can we increase the value of our products?
How can we charge more for that extra value?
How can we identify our most profitable customers?
How can we improve our relationship with them?
How can we decrease costs without decreasing quality?
How can we accelerate the speed of everything we do?
Ask the questions and record the answers. Make sure everything is captured and documented and available for study.
The goal should be to stimulate change in degrees. To ask new questions that probably can’t be answered immediately (but will stimulate changes in the way people think). To come up with new product and marketing ideas that can be tested in the medium-term. And to identify changes that can produce benefits almost immediately.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]