Long ago Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, made a very profound observation that has been lost in the sands of time:“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”Innovation and creativity are the keys to make marketing the distinguishing, unique function of a business.

Uniqueness is the driver fueling Apple’s phenomenal growth and profitability. Personally, I wonder how much longer Apple’s growth will continue without Steve Jobs. Uniqueness increases profits, especially if that uniqueness is important to the customer.

Yet, though this profit-increasing trait is well known, most businesses still take the lazy way out and simply copy each other; look at all the smartphone and tablet copies flooding the market with nary a glimmer of individuality.

Because of this laziness, we are drowning in a surplus of sameness and similar.When we shop, we shop similar companies, with similarproducts and services, with similar prices and similarqualities. Everywhere I go I see sameness or similar. When I was a kid, I used to be able to tell you the difference between a Ford, Chevy or Dodge. Today, most vehicles look similarto me.

When top management in any industry is surveyed today, their priorities in order are:

1. Finance

2. Sales

3. Production

4. Management

5. Legal

6. People

What’s missing? Marketing and innovation.

Most flooring stores look, sound and service alike. Though there has been some innovation in manufacturing and some sprucing up at retail, most stores are selling the same products and treating their customers the same way. Flooring is a mostly commodity-driven industry, a sea of sameness that, believe it or not, contains islands of innovation and uniqueness. But they are islands unto themselves; that’s why they stand out and are very profitable.

Whether you are a flooring business owner, a salesperson or an installer, your business probably can use a shot of creativity and innovation. Wouldn’t you like to be more profitable?  Your customer will never believe that you are the best, and pay you more, unless you are different. You may find this shocking, but they will not pay you more just because they like you.

Uniqueness is generated by creativity and innovation. Most adults, however, do not believe they are creative. Imagination is one of four unique human endowments that separate us from the animals. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” People who create use their imaginations. Being human we are all capable of creating, but most of us don’t believe we have the capacity to do so. If you believe you can’t, then you won’t; you won’t even try.

What happened to us?  When we were children, we believed we were good artists. “All children are artists. The trick is to remain an artist.”Picasso said. Children use their imaginations to create.

What caused you to lose your creative belief about yourself? I used to believe I had zero creativity, but I don’t believe that anymore; I have surprised myself. I believe that each of us has the ability to create and to innovate. We can make our businesses more profitable, make our customers happilypay more and we can enrich stale, worn-out relationships. We just have to put our imaginations to work.

You may not be aware, but you are likely using your imagination anyway. Most adults don’t use their imaginations to create and innovate; they use their imaginations to worry. Worry is the misuse of the imagination. Since creating feels better than worrying, I recommend you quit worrying and start using your creativity to improve your life, your future, your relationships and your business. By the way, research shows that creativity is a skill and can be learned and fine- tuned and improved; you just have to learn the process.

Twenty years ago my good friend Cesar Pegan, head carpet designer for Horizon Carpet Mills and, later, Karastan Carpets and Area Rugs, taught me the process. He was always looking to create the next great carpet style. According to Cesar, the creative process starts with deciding what you want.

Look around you. What do you want?  Improved profitability? Improved employee productivity?  Increased customer satisfaction?  Better relationships?  More revenue?  Get a clear picture in your mind of the result you want, and your brain will go to work to discover a solution.

But you are not done, oh no; your mind needs fodder to chew on. You need to immerse yourself in any pertinent information about your issue. You need to do research. Child-like, open-minded curiosity is required. I believe curiosity fuels the imagination. “Healthy curiosity is a great key in innovation,”Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha said. Maybe that’s why Einstein is to have also said, “Curiosity is more important than knowledge.”

Which did he mean, curiosity or imagination?  I think he meant both. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

It’s possible that, as you’re reading this, you’re at Surfaces 2013. It’s an ideal time to be curious and to reignite your imagination. Turn off the worries about the future and focus on what you want. Circling back to the great Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Search the show, network with your peers, watch, observe; give your mind fodder to chew on. Everywhere you go, observe, watch and investigate. As the truly, truly unique Yogi Berra once put it, “You can observe a lot, just by watching.”

With a clear vision of what you want and a powerful curiosity, your primed imagination will generate ideas. Where do you need to change?  How can you improve your business?  What can you do to energize your life? Walt Disney put it plainly:“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

It’s a perfect time of the year to start. Make a resolution: turn off your worries and turn on your mind to discover the new possibilities. Prime your imagination with vision and curiosity. You will be amazed at the ideas you generate, leading you to wonder: did curiosity really kill the cat, or did it help a very successful business man make a killing in his category?


Sam Allman is president of Allman Consulting and Training. He is an internationally recognized motivational speaker, consultant, trainer and author who delivers inspiring programs in areas such as leadership, customer service, management development, team building, retail sales and personal quality management. He has developed many audio and video programs and has created hundreds of training and educational learning systems.

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