Think Profitably in 3 Steps

by Emily Jasper on December 2, 2013


Thanks to concepts like the skunkworks team or Project X research group, everyone wants to have a chance to innovate and create without worrying about the cost of resources. Profitability is a banned idea.

Unfortunately, limitless time and money just aren’t a reality for most businesses.

Your business reality might be a world of tight timelines, miniscule budgets, and too few hands to get things done. You can’t go about innovative freedom in the same way as firms dropping lots of cash into those special teams – but you can create an innovative mindset.

Focus on profitability.

Profitable thinking across your teams means that people aren’t just more effective and efficient, they have to be true problem solvers. There are very real limits in place, so employees have to more creative with how they run a project or put together a campaign.

Reality TV cooking challenges provide a great example of how limits can inspire creativity. Take any Quick Fire Challenge or Chopped basket, and you see that chefs rise to the occasion. Make profitable thinking the same kind of activity:

  • Explain what the limits are: Whether you’re looking at an overall budget or one that could be contingent on project performance, understand what impacts the numbers. Explain those levers to the team. Get them to ask questions about how their work could impact those levers, for better or for worse.
  • Put timelines in place: Profitability is tough when timing goes out the window. You lose track of the goals and it’s hard to get on track if you strayed from a previously developed strategy. Don’t make unreasonable schedules, but you need to keep an eye on the clock.
  • Make the results clear: Especially when creative ideas work out, make sure teams know what the rewards could be. Profitability is often an obscure concept that doesn’t mean anything to lower level employees. But rewards tied to results help them know not only what they’re working toward, but also what their individual impact can have on the project or company.

There’s no reason to create high-stakes elimination challenges in your company, but take a page from limit-bounded exercises. You’ll create a scenario where people have to think outside the box, but you’ll also be keeping your eye on how to profitably please your leaders, your clients, and your company.

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