Creativity Can Charge Into and
Conquer the Marketplace
Expanding On One Theme To Create Another
Direct Sales Journal
by Michael L. Sheffield
CEO The Sheffield Group
What do a bull and a bicycle have in common? If you’re Pablo Picasso, plenty. One day the legendary artist was taking a walk, enjoying the day, when he noticed an abandoned old rusty bicycle leaning against a fence. Studying the bicycle, Picasso observed how the handlebars resembled the horns of a bull. Taking the bike back to his studio, he removed the handlebars, and using them as a model, proceeded to form the sculpture of a charging bull.
What is this gift that enables a person to take two seemingly unrelated ideas and produce a priceless work of art? The answer is creativity.
Creativity is defined as the expanding on one theme to create another. It is the making of the new or the rearranging of the old in a new way. No matter how you define it, creativity is the starting point in your development of new and exciting ideas to enhance business models, product development and marketing methods. It is the propellant powering the early stages of a company’s launch. It’s the infusion that brings fading companies back to life.
Even if your present business formula is experiencing great success, you need to know that most marketing methods, compensation plan strategies and product concepts have a life cycle. Some cycles last a long time. For example, in the product arena, Shaklee’s Vitalee™ multi-vitamin and Amway's SA 8™ laundry soap have been around for years. Because of their quality and perfect positioning, these products have earned brand name loyalty from distributors and customers alike. Other product durations are fairly short. That’s why on-going research, innovation and development should be integral and on-going aspects of your business.
And like the products they sell, the individual business model of every Multi-Level corporation has a life cycle. Although Amways and Shaklees have endured the tests of time, both business models are in transition. For example, Amway has shifted its positioning focus to its Internet based Quixtar business and is undergoing a complete image uplift in the U.S. and world marketplace. Because of the ease of consumer knowledge using technology, to be competitive in product offerings as well as their business opportunity, MLM and direct selling companies must reinvent themselves every few years. Because of the inclination to hold on too long to outdated ideas, most companies aren’t so fortunate. The fields of free enterprise are scattered with the remains of many MLM ventures that boomed — and bombed. This need not happen to your dream.
Your product and organization can enjoy a long, healthy, happy life. But to achieve this success, your products and the perception of your company portrayed by your overall business approach must remain fresh. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you should ever eliminate a product that’s working just because it isn’t brand new. It is just that powerhouse companies have learned that the enterprise will live or die by its ability to develop or procure products that are new, unique and non-duplicatable, and enhance their business opportunity to compete with the changing marketplace. Omit this element and your undertaking may meet the undertaker.
Here are the cold, hard facts on failure in direct sales or Multi-Level Marketing. If an entrepreneurial company flops, it will be for one or more of the following reasons:
- Inexperienced management;
- Insufficient capital;
- Ineffective distributor team;
- Inability to recruit distributors;
- Incommensurate compensation plan;
- Ineffective or outdated products;
- Lack of venture uniqueness.
Now, it’s true that any one of these things can bring a company down, and it’s also true that when a company fails, it is generally a result of more than one of these factors. But to me, the saddest circumstance which is also the most preventable, is when companies with great management teams, good capitalization, and competent “can do” distributors fail because they are strapped with uncompetitive compensation plans, marketing systems and outdated “me too” products. Regrettably, I have seen this happen all too often in the 30-plus years I’ve been in this business. With respect to the market, these companies learned too late that they were the MLM equivalents of Where’s Waldo. Lost against a backdrop of a lot of other “me too” financial promises and merchandise, they couldn’t establish unique differentials and secure a robust corporate and brand position.
In other words, Multi-Level and Direct Selling organizations also peak and pass away for a lack of outstanding, “Hey world – look at us!” ideas.
On the other hand, there are numerous examples of companies with unsophisticated management, insufficient capital, inexperienced distributors, an average to poor compensation plan and marketing system that have emerged as MLM giants because they had the right product at the right time.
Perfect products can compensate for an imperfect company. Quality products, fairly priced, and delivered as promised can cover a lot of flaws in an organization. The customer can forgive inexperienced management, unsophisticated distributors, and less than snazzy packaging if they really love what’s inside. That’s why product research and development must be an integral and on-going aspect of your business.
By the time you’ve finished this article, I hope you’ll share my belief that there’s nothing worse than an idea — when it’s the only one you have! But, by then, I hope you’ll also share my conviction that generating creative ideas is a challenge you can meet and master.
Remember Picasso’s bicycle and bull? You may not be a world famous artist. But trust me when I tell you that you have within you the same elements of genius when it comes to creating new ideas for your business. I know this because I know the way the mind of an entrepreneur works. My purpose here is to stimulate your imagination and encourage you to release the God-given genius within you to generate powerful and profitable ideas, and conversion of those ideas into sustainable business models.
We’ve all heard it said that knowledge is power. Well … that’s not quite true. All great minds agree that knowledge is basic to creative thinking, but that it’s not enough. For knowledge to produce power, it must be taken in, broken down and absorbed. Finally, that knowledge must be brought back rightly applied and activated in the form of fresh new combinations and relationships. In other words, “Applied knowledge is power.”
Albert Einstein referred to the recognition of new combinations and relationships as second sight. It’s what folks like you and me call creative imagination. He considered second sight the only path to discovery. Despite his venerable status as one of the world’s truly great intellects, Einstein went so far as to say, “imagination is greater than knowledge.”
It’s true. Our world is experiencing a knowledge explosion. But is it because people are suddenly so much smarter? No, this eruption of knowledge is the result of thousands of years of accumulated understanding. Eons of ever-increasing enlightenment has converged; causing what could be called “creative critical mass.”
Knowledge begets knowledge. Creativity begets greater creativity. Technologies are generating information faster than the average person can keep up.
That’s why it’s absolutely essential to recognize and adapt our business and personal lives to these changes. To remain viable you must continually generate new ideas. In order to gain or sustain a competitive edge today, company executives and entrepreneurs must enter the state of perpetual innovation, the ongoing creative process that results in new product developments and advanced delivery forms that can outdo your competition.
Everything from the washboard to the World Wide Web was at first and for a time an idea, a fleeting mental picture, and a flash of inspiration. It may sound a bit corny, but an idea is the spiritual parent of the product.
Many similar products are introduced to the marketplace every year but only a few come to life and succeed. There are many inventors and product developers that have created untold numbers of formulations or designs craving entrepreneurial marketing and distribution attention. By having a contract manufacturer follow the development steps of a technical formula, producing a new potion is about as easy as baking a cake. But, it is our essence and our energy that bring that formula to life. It is an act of creation.
Creation means to bring order out of chaos by bringing seemingly different parts into a greater homogenous whole.
Creation is a process. It begins with an attitude. A mindset. Creativity is not something you do. It is who you are. You don’t turn creativity on and off like a water tap. You live as a creative person. You are interested in everything. You are curious about your world. You see possibilities everywhere. Example: two people can look at a large, misshapen chunk of granite. One person sees nothing but a big rock. The creative person sees the statue of a majestic lion waiting to be freed by the sculptor’s chisel.
I suppose there are some people more genetically inclined toward creativity. In his book, Mind and Society, the 18th Century sociologist, Vilfredo Pereto suggested that with respect to creativity, there are two types of people: the speculator and the rentier.
The speculator is, as the word implies, a speculative person. According to Pareto, the speculator is “constantly pre-occupied with the possibilities of new combinations.” It’s the kind of person who just can’t leave well enough alone. They are the “tinkerers,” always fooling around with some newfangled potion, lotion or notion. They can’t look at a building or a bridge or a skin cream without speculating on how they can change it and make it better.
When translated into modern English, the word rentier means stockholder. The emphasis here is on hold. They hold the line. They hold to the status quo. And sometimes they just end up holding the bag.
These folks are steady, structured types. There is nothing wrong with that. Every organization needs even-tempered people to keep the business running smoothly. Employees like this are worth their weight in gold to a busy speculator.
But with all due respect to the “steady-as-she-goes” folks, this article is written to the speculator, the dreamer, the enlightened entrepreneur — that bold breed of man or woman who can see — and free — the lion in the stone.
I submit that if a person is at all attracted to Multi-Level Marketing, it is because they are among the speculators of this world.
However, being a speculator alone is not enough. Creative idea development requires an understanding of two things:
- Principle – Knowing what and why.
- Method – Knowing how, when, where and to what degree
The same is true in generating new strategies for your business opportunity or new products. Earlier, I defined creativity as “the making of the new or the rearranging of the old in a new way”. You see, like separate musical notes, loose, floating bits of information are not really worth much. Oh, they may make you a master at Trivial Pursuit, but that’s just about it — trivia. It is only when they are creatively composed that they become truly valuable. And you know what? The composition is really not that hard.
It may interest you to know that every piece of music in the world comes from notes: C, D, E, F, G, A and B. Separate these into eighth, quarter and half notes, add a few flats and sharps, and you can create every conceivable kind of song and symphony … from classic to country to Christmas carols. It’s all in how the pieces are put together.
And when it comes down to it, there aren’t all that many basic elements of business, either. You have a customer, who has a need or want. You have a product that can satisfy that need or want. You have a story that illustrates the benefits of the product. You have a package, you have a price and you have a company responsible for getting the story, and the product, out to the customer. Finally, you have an independent distributor, doing his or her best to live a dream and make a buck. You see — it’s not all that complicated. Just remember — it’s all in the way you put the pieces together. It’s a matter of harmony, balance, and proper direction, just like the dynamic components of making an orchestra sound great, enrich its audiences, and fulfill its most noble objectives.
Napoleon Hill observed: “Just as the oak tree develops from the germ that lies in the acorn, and the bird develops from the germ that lies asleep in the egg, so will your material achievements grow out of the organized plans that you create in your imagination. First comes the thought; then the organization of that thought into ideas; then the formation of plans, and finally the transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.” It’s true that an idea is where success begins. Human imagination is the starting point of all human accomplishment. The creative thought always precedes the creative act. But I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you of this fact: It’s one thing to have a great idea; it’s another to bring that idea to life. This takes planning, proper procedures, goals, guts and grace under fire.
- Creativity is the making of the new or the rearranging of the old in a new way.
- Creativity is the starting point in your development of new and exciting product ideas.
- The most preventable reason for corporate failure is the risk of being strapped with an outdated “me too” product due to lack of innovation and creative imagination.
In order to gain or sustain a competitive edge today, company executives and entrepreneurs must enter the state of perpetual innovation, the ongoing creative process that results in new product developments and advanced delivery forms that can outdo your competition.
- Creation means to bring order out of chaos by bringing seemingly different parts into a greater homogenous whole. Creative imagination is a process. It begins with an attitude. A mindset. Creativity is not something you do. It’s who you are.
- Creative imagination and new product innovation rest on principle — knowing what and why — and method — knowing how, when, where and to what degree.
- The important thing is to train your mind to the method by which all great ideas are born and to master the principles which are at the heart of those magnificent obsessions.
- The two most important principles of product sourcing are: (1) An idea is nothing more or less than a new combination of old elements, and (2) Creativity is the ability to see relationships.
- The creative process behind new products always begins with an idea. The creative thought always precedes the creative act. However, without congruent action, your dreams and ideas will remain without life.
Michael L. Sheffield is the CEO of The Sheffield Group, a full-service direct sales and multi level marketing (MLM) consulting firm. He is a Co-Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Multi Level Marketing International Association and in 2001 he was inducted into the MLMIA Hall of Fame. He and the Sheffield team have assisted in hundreds of national and international MLM corporate start-ups as well as offered a full line of services for established direct sales companies including consultation on MLM Website development. As the most noted expert on compensation plans, he has been a guest lecturer on the subject for the DSA, University of Illinois, University of Texas, Berkeley and Harvard Alumni Association. He has helped launch over 200 new products marketed by direct selling companies around the globe. He can be contacted at 480-968-6199, The Sheffield Group, 2239 N. Hayden Road, Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ. 85257, website address: www.sheffieldnet.com.
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