A Publication of WTVP

If you’re going to survive this season of turmoil, you must innovate your way out of it.

The recession is in full swing, and companies everywhere are feeling the pain. Yours is likely no exception. Shrinking budgets, sweeping layoffs and a smothering malaise that’s settled over your workforce make it hard to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, even the most optimistic leader finds him or herself wondering, Is there an end to this particular tunnel? Sure there is, says Kimberly Douglas, but you’re going to have to excavate it yourself-and you’re going to have to light your own way.

“Innovation is the only ticket out of this recession,” asserts Douglas, author of The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results. “I believe this is true for America as a whole, and it’s certainly true for the individual organizations that make up our nation.

“I’m not just talking about product development,” she clarifies. “I’m talking about new services, business processes, means of communication and methods of collaboration. Companies that can churn out innovative ideas-good, workable innovative ideas-will be able to adapt to the new realities we face. Those that can’t, won’t.”

The heart of innovation, of course, is people working together eagerly, intelligently and productively. When this synergy happens, ideas pour forth like water from a newly tapped underground spring-or, as Douglas puts it, like fireflies showing up en masse at dusk. Innovation is all about good teamwork. It’s really that simple. And it’s what The Firefly Effect is all about.

Douglas teaches leaders how to discover and apply creativity within their own teams to get results. She uses a firefly metaphor-the image of children working together to catch these glowing creatures-to illustrate how successful teams use their individual talents collectively to focus on critical business challenges.

“If you’re like many leaders, you have a group of shell-shocked lay-off ‘survivors’ who are wandering around lost in a state of general worry and angst about the economy,” she says. “You can use innovation principles to direct their anxious energy toward solving critical problems for the company. It helps them; it helps you; it helps everyone.

So how can you deliberately create a more innovative culture-call it “Operation Firefly”-at your company? While you’d have to read the book to get the complete picture, Douglas offers the following tips to help you get started:

After reading this advice, you may be thinking, Okay, all this talk of toys and trips to the zoo is fine for other companies or maybe other departments, but certainly not for my team. We’re struggling to stay alive. We just don’t have time for innovation.

Douglas says you’re absolutely wrong.

“Innovation is everyone’s job now,” she asserts. “It’s no longer the purview of R&D or marketing. That no longer makes good business sense.

“You must make time for innovation,” she adds. “At the very least you can devote one hour of team time a week to a truly innovative brainstorming session. Even if you don’t see immediately usable outcomes, there is unmistakable value in keeping people engaged in the excitement of their work. All it takes is for one person to have a bright idea and pass it on to others-like the spark of a firefly that magically illuminates a dark night.”

Kimberly Douglas, SPHR, is president of FireFly Facilitation, Inc., a firm specializing in the design and facilitation of high-impact initiatives, including leadership team effectiveness and strategic planning.She has facilitated results for over 25 years in a broad cross-section of industries and organizations, including Coca-Cola, AT&T, Home Depot, UPS and the U.S. Marine Corps. Her book, The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results (Wiley, 2009, ISBN: 978-0-470-43832-9, $24.95), is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers or directly from the publisher by calling 800-225-5945.