Phil Castle, The Business Times
Tamara Kleinberg had made it her business to promote innovation — founding an enterprise that tests new products while also speaking and writing about the subject.
Innovative businesses are better at differentiating their operations and adapting to changing market conditions, she said. Moreover, customers who increasingly demand innovation in products and services not only compare businesses with their direct competitors, but also have come to expect the same level of innovation as that offered by such companies as Disney and Uber.
“It’s incredibly important,” she said.
The good news, Kleinberg said, is that businesses can take steps to foster innovation.
In fact, Kleinberg will discuss what she said are seven-and-a-half steps for creating a culture of innovation in her keynote presentation at an upcoming manufacturing summit set for April 28 at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
In a telephone interview with the Business Times, Kleinberg said she views her role as “helping people wake up to their ability to innovate and guide them through executing their ideas.”
Kleinberg founded TheShuuk.com, a Denver-based operation she describes as an online testing ground in which she connects inventors and entrepreneurs with what she said is a community of thoughtful and engaged people who test new products and quickly provide feedback.
Some of the products tested through the operation have included Super Rope Cinch, a device that secures rope with a simple twist, and Flat Out of Heels, a line of rollable ballet style flats designed to offer alternative footwear to women wearing painful high heels, Kleinberg said. The shoe company also takes advantage of an innovative distribution channel, she said, in dispensing shoes through vending machines at airports, nightclubs and other locations.
Kleinberg also delivers keynote presentations on a variety of topics related to innovation and has written two books, including “Think Sideways: A Game-Changing Playbook for Disruptive Thinking.”
Kleinberg brings to her various pursuits more than 20 years of experience in working with Fortune 500 companies in developing new products and marketing approaches.
She was once one of the youngest people ever named to a leadership position in a global advertising agency.
One of the first steps in creating a culture of innovation, Kleinberg said, is to give people permission to innovate. People naturally come up good ideas, but can be discouraged from acting on them or even sharing them, she said.
Another step in creating a culture of innovation is to continually practice techniques that promote innovation — a process Kleinberg compares to going to a gym to improve fitness.
Perfection is the enemy of innovation, she said. Rather than considering something an outright success or failure, it can be more effective to go through a series of incremental improvements to get something right.
Small businesses enjoy some advantages in promoting innovation, Kleinberg said, because they can change more quickly than their larger counterparts. Smaller businesses also tend to communicate more directly with their customers and therefore receive more direct feedback, she said.
Individuals can improve their ability to innovate by realizing they bring different styles and strengths to the process.
Kleinberg developed what she calls the Innovation Quotient Edge, a brief online assessment that identifies innovation styles and strengths as well as what triggers innovation.
People who register to attend the manufacturing summit will have an opportunity to take the assessment. Kleinberg said she plans to discuss the overall results during her keynote presentation.
A culture of innovation also depends on good communication. Good communication in turn depends on using the right words and asking questions in the right ways, Kleinberg said.
Presenting an idea and asking someone what they think forces an up or down vote and poses the threat of immediate rejection, she said. Presenting an idea and then asking someone what they’d do to improve on that idea engages them and promotes collaboration.
The 2016 Western Colorado Manufacturing Summit is scheduled for April 28 at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Admission is $75 for members of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, $100 for others. To register for or obtain more information about the summit, visit www.co-cama.org.