Too much to do makes workers dull

by Dan Shope

Coming up with great ideas is a challenge for workers today — especially at work, according to an innovation specialist.

The average worker is interrupted daily by dozens of e-mails, phone calls and voice mail messages. That means few have the time be creative, said Robert B. Tucker, president of Innovation Resource of Santa Barbara, Calif.

“With our multi-tasking work style, everyone has so much to get done,” Tucker said. “It’s not good for creating ideas.”

Tucker said people get their ideas in the shower, running, working out, driving a car, cycling, reading or sleeping.

“You have to get a sticky note and write them down fast, before you forget them,” Tucker said. “The best ideas don’t come from work, rather somewhere else.”

Somewhere else last week was a seminar run by Tucker at the Days Inn Conference Center in South Whitehall Township and sponsored by the Manufacturers Resource Center in Bethlehem.

Tucker is an adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He gained acclaim in 1986 by interviewing 50 leading innovators for the book Winning the Innovation Game.

He also wrote the best seller, Managing the Future: 10 Driving Forces of Change, and the latest, Driving Growth through Innovation.

Tucker said it’s time for American manufacturers to begin innovating again. He pointed to a recent Time magazine article, What Can America Make?

“When general-interest publications like Time start doing articles on the dire state of American manufacturing, you know this has become a big issue,” Tucker said.

United States manufacturers lost about 2.7 million jobs in three years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but Tucker said they can overcome foreign competition as they have in the past — with good, old American innovation.

Twenty years ago, the Japanese presented high quality products and America responded with Quality Circles and Total Quality Management. Today, China and India present a challenge with their low costs, but America will remain strong because it knows how to innovate, he said.

“Jack Welch, former General Electric chairman, used to say that if the rate of change inside your organization was less than the rate of change outside it, the end was in sight,” Tucker said.

“I’m convinced that those who are willing to embrace innovation can make anything and everything now and in the future despite the uneven playing field.”

Tucker said accidental products such as Viagra, Nutra-Sweet and FedEx were developed by companies that believed in happy accidents.

At Searle, a researcher licked his fingers while combining two amino acids and learned they tasted sweet. The material became Nutra-Sweet.

FedEx started by refurbishing aircraft in Little Rock, Ark. But then customers started asking to have packages delivered by air, and the company developed another idea.

“Viagra was developed at Pfizer originally as a heart medication,” he said. “They were trying to stimulate receptors in the heart, and ended up with receptors elsewhere.”