Scaffolding for Creativity in Business

Creativity in Business
Photo credit: 96dpi via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

We’ve all seen scaffolding set up to support work in the construction, maintenance, cleaning and repair of buildings, bridges, houses, and more. While these structures are rarely permanent — and are hoped to be in use only a short period of time — they must be reliable and up-to-date.

Now, you may ask, why blog about scaffolds?

The key point is that a scaffold is a critical support feature. Truly, everyone needs a scaffold for support in a job, business, and company and in their personal lives. I don’t claim to be a relationship guru, so let’s only focus on your job, business and company.

Scaffolding creativity

I maintain that the most important scaffold is creative people doing creative things. This can mean your clients as well as the technology supplier. For example, creative clients have brought to BHS applications for biochemicals (using straw, wheat, bagasse, wood and plastics), fats, lipids and proteins (using chicken renderings and process water used to clean equipment in dairy operations), amino acids, inorganic chemicals and salts, final and bulk pharmaceuticals and oil & gas and refinery operations, including offshore.

At the same time, BHS has provided unique and creative process solutions in all of these cases. One fun case saw us using dimethyl ether, under continuous pressure so it operates as a liquid, with zero fugitive emissions.

Creating permanence for creative mindset

Yet, while scaffolds are transient structures, in business we must consider the question of “how do we ensure the creative people maintain their creativity?” In a recent AICHE article Paul Baybutt stated, “while most people are born with the capacity for creative thinking, this skill can be lost through formal education and societal pressures that discourage it.”

Nevertheless, he noted, “luckily, creative thinking can be learned.” He described several characteristics of a creative thinker such as:

  • thinks imaginatively and with an open mind to new ideas
  • views issues as challenges
  • believes alternatives exist
  • able to live with ambiguity and tolerate a degree of chaos
  • self-confident and knows how to ask good questions.
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Photo credit: soham_pablo via Foter.com / CC BY

What can leaders and businesses do to keep the creative juices flowing? Baybutt provided some insights:

  • Be patient and curious
  • Persevere and maintain a positive frame of mind
  • Welcome challenges and embrace mistakes as learning experiences
  • Explore rather than prove
  • Follow your gut
  • Have a desire to “consider” rather than “argue.”

The idea behind scaffolding is to connect workers with their project in a safe, supported way. Creativity too will thrive in this environment — if we find ways to scaffold our creative thinkers to innovation success.

Lessons Learned from Nathan’s

“You can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take Brooklyn out of the boy.”

Innovation Engineering
Photo credit: drpavloff via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Growing up in Brooklyn, I could bicycle about 5 miles to the ocean and Coney Island. I would always stop at Nathan’s Famous. The stop was always for a hot dog, some fries, a Coke, and then a day on the beach. For those who do not know, Nathan’s has sold more than 500 million (all-beef) hot dogs since its inception; it’s brand of hotdogs are now available at more than 53,000 outlets in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries.

I may not be one of the celebrity loyalists — those included performers such as Cary Grant, Barbara Streisand, gangsters Al Capone, Scarface, Bugsy Siegel, and politicians Bernie Sanders, President Donald Trump… But how does this memory relate to this blog?

Lessons Learned from Nathan’s

Nathan Handwerker, an Eastern European Jewish immigrant arrived at Ellis Island speaking not a word of English, unable to read or write, and with twenty-five dollars hidden in his shoes. He had a simple goal: work hard, remain fiercely loyal to what matters most, customers and employees, and stay focused on what you know best. Nathan’s began in 1916 and recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. The Coney Island location is now home, of course, to the 4th of July hot-dog eating contest.

Whether or not you’re dealing with hotdogs, though, we can all learn from Nathan’s. First, stay loyal. This cuts across all aspects of work and family. BHS is over 400 years old, so we have been around a long time. But staying loyal to your business, process, technology or whatever you are engaged with is critical to success.

Nathan’s always focused on “quality food at a fair price” to “bring the customers back.” Nathan personally checked every hot dog that came into the restaurant as well as oil temperature for the fries and grill temperature. As a technology supplier, quality at a fair price is what we do. On the operations side, providing quality chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc., is the key to survival.

Initially Nathan’s sold hot dogs for 10 cents, the same price as the popular Coney Island outpost Feltman’s beer garden. Then, the enterprising young entrepreneur, after netting a mere $60 in his first days of business, decided to lower his prices to 5 cents. With higher volume his next week’s receipts totaled $260. This was the first fast-food price war and one of the brand’s first innovations.

Nathan’s also introduced the food industry, to purifying the cooking oil, refrigeration and cleanliness as well as “chow mein on a bun” and beer after prohibition.

Loyalty, quality, innovation…seems that I learned a lot from those “old” Brooklyn days. Let me know how your younger days influenced your career. I’m sure we will hear some interesting stories.