Creative Thinking for Small Business – Part 4

  • Sumo

Today Michael Michalko,  one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys, will talk about whom he most admires for their creative thinking accomplishments.

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Whom do you most admire for their creative thinking accomplishments?

Michael’s Response: There are many. There are Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla, George Westinghouse, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Fred Smith, Chester Carlson, Walt Disney, and millions of others. But when I think of creativity, I know there is the beauty of human potential that lies in each of us. My heroes in life are those who use their potential to overcome personal adversity to succeed.

My favorite example of human potential is a story I heard about a man who bags and carries out groceries in a supermarket. His name, I was told, is Johnny and he has Down’s Syndrome.  One day the owner asked the employees to try to do something special for the customers to create a good memory about the market and bring them back. The managers and employees discussed various thoughts and ideas. When Johnny tried to get involved, he was ignored.

Johnny was used to being treated with indifference and being ignored by the store’s managers, so it didn’t bother him. Johnny thought and thought about what he could do as a grocery bagger. He thought about the things that made him feel good. His favorite thing to do each day after he got home was to look up a quote or make one up if he couldn’t find one he liked and repeat it silently to himself all the next day at work. Then he got his idea. If it makes him feel good, it will make customers feel good, too.

He would give his daily quote or saying to his father who would type it up on a computer and print multiple copies. Johnny would cut out each quote, sign his name on the back, and bring them to work. While bagging groceries he would put a quote in the bag and say, “Thank you for shopping with us.”

A month later, the owner noticed Johnny’s checkout lane was five times longer than other lanes. He tried to encourage the shoppers to move to other lanes. Incredibly, the people wouldn’t leave. They said they wanted Johnny’s “thought for the day.” Three months later, the owner discovered Johnny’s spirit had pervaded the whole staff, and each employee was now trying to add that little touch to make people feel special.

Whenever I think of human potential and the courage and will of some to overcome personal adversity to create ways to make ordinary tasks into extraordinary examples of inspiration that make life brighter for the rest of us, I think of Johnny.

“Use what talents you have.
The woods would be silent
if no bird sang
except those that sang best.”

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Michael Michalko is one of the most highly-acclaimed creativity experts in the world and author of the best-seller Thinkertoys (A Handbook of Business Creativity), ThinkPak (A Brainstorming Card Deck), and Cracking Creativity (The Secrets of Creative Genius).

Michael has provided speeches, workshops, and seminars on fostering creative thinking for clients who range from Fortune 500 corporations, such as DuPont,  Kellogg’s, General Electric, Kodak, Microsoft, Exxon, General Motors, Ford, USA, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Gillette, and Hallmark, to associations and governmental agencies. In addition to his work in the U.S., Michael speaks and provides workshops in countries around the world.

You can learn more about Michael on his website at: www.CreativeThinking.net

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5 thoughts on “Creative Thinking for Small Business – Part 4”

  1. The story about Johnny is a wonderful story that touches me every time I read it. The companies that I think of as creative are 3M Co. and Medtronic. 3M for the many products that it has delivered and continues to deliver. Innovation is their tagline. Medtronic for the many products they’ve brought forth to bring people extended life and better health.

  2. Thanks for sharing Larry. 3M is a great company to study and watch. The story about the creation of Post-It-Notes is worth studying – particularly how they were originally marketed.

  3. Reminds me of the story about a shoe-shine person, who brought a smile to work all day every day and the attitude to be the best shoe-shine person, reasoning that many of the people he served had their own problems. Another story I experienced in a seminar where the speaker borrowed a digital watch (back when they were relatively a new item) from an attendee, and asked him what was written on the watch. He couldn’t do it and neither could any of us recall what was written on our watches. The speaker gave the watch back to the attendee and asked him to both verify that it was his watch, and to read out loud what was written on the watch. There was quite a lot. The speaker then put his hand over the watch and ask the attendee what time it was; he could not say.

    Another speaker recalled someone putting a dot symbol on a school room black board like a period . and asked the students what it was, one student said a telephone pole, to which the speaker questioned how? “To a bird flying over head” said the student.

    1. Bill – thanks for sharing those stories. Isn’t it amazing how children are able to see challenges and obstacles from a completely different perspective?.

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