It never fails to surprise me how fast time seems to fly... my parents started warning me about that the moment I started to walk. Nonetheless, another summer has come and gone and as I reminisce about our own personal adventures these past few months, it becomes clear to me that life presents us with a myriad of subliminal opportunities to learn from each other.
We may be totally unaware of these moments -- they pass us by in an instant -- but later, they sometimes quietly resurface. A spark of an idea from something we saw, or did, or spoke to someone about that could potentially lead to bigger and better things.
As I reflect on our travels, I realize that our summer travels all over the Province were filled with all kinds of those "sparks". My vacation truly left me appreciating the fact that sometimes even the simplest of ideas can trigger our thought processes and provoke those creative inner juices, providing us with the urge to try something new and different. To reach beyond and stretch for innovation, and dauntingly challenge us to think outside the proverbial box, car, office, sector etc. Daring to do something beyond our norm may lead to a better product, greater efficiency, an enthusiastic and engaged labour pool, or the generation of creative ideas, perhaps lending thoughts on new equipment design and development, role changes, communication strategies, whatever...
Now, I realize that this may all sound rather altruistic; however, it's amazing how deep, introspective thought can be triggered when you have come to a complete and abrupt 3.5 hour halt on the 401. With traffic moving by at the speed of light in the opposite lanes, no food and a cell phone with a dead battery, it was very easy to sit back and reflect about "things".
And so began my holidays...I was set adrift between a young couple flying paper airplanes up and down the rows of vehicles and a trucker enjoying the comforts of his cab. I watched as any number of people got out of their vehicles to contemplate the situation we were in -- weighing the pro's and con's of crossing the collector lanes. Needless to say, I pondered ways to extricate ourselves from this hot, sticky July situation that would get us back on the road to our merry little vacation, and made notes for future encounters of this kind. This process made me realize that the "spark" of an idea can be triggered in any context -- including sitting on the 401. The key is looking beyond the barriers...putting yourself perhaps on one of those paper airplanes and looking at things from a different perspective.
So, a challenge if you will -- what are the little things that you have seen, heard or been inspired by while relaxing on your holidays? When you see them, do you write them down? Here are a few of the little things that inspired me this summer -- not rocket science and perhaps things you may have seen as well -- some examples of instances that provoked my thought on more than one level and inspired me to think about inter-connectivity and possibilities. Things that I might extrapolate on and share at a networking event, perhaps.
Have you ever watched McDonald's automatic six-eight cup filling machine for pop? What an interesting piece of equipment, strategically located within inches of the drive-thru window -- definitely placed to increase efficiency, allowing the server to prepare other meal items as quickly as possible. (As an aside, I was somewhat relieved that the ice cream cones were still prepared one at a time because any automation in that area could lead to a slightly lopsided, somewhat sticky situation...). Is there something from that tiny workstation that we could extrapolate into our own on a larger scale?
Energy initiatives surround us whether you are on quiet country roads or making your way through grid-locked traffic. As a key cost component in our daily production, we need to focus on ways to manage our energy more efficiently. Our travels exposed us to so many different solar panel installations and configurations on barns, rooftops, fields... windmill development and discussion... a notice of more interest in homes being built off the grid... What are our next steps in energy efficiency?
Taking a moment to watch the Canadian version of Undercover Boss - after job shadowing his employees for a week, the President of Pizza Pizza stated how essential it was to engage our workforces and retain our people so that together you can build a much stronger organization. He encouraged anyone in a leadership position to take the time to get out on the plant floor and learn from the people. If we were to put ourselves in a position of that nature, being on the floor in disguise, what would we learn?
Barcodes on business cards, on delivery vans on trucks! In the world of ever changing technology and methods of communication, what an innovative way to steer people immediately to your website, your products, your services, your contacts... Would not recommend you attempt scanning while driving but would certainly encourage thought on what kinds of information you could share that would be of value to your customers today and your customers tomorrow...
A billboard with "Big Bruce" (representing the Bruce County Beef Association) decked out in an Elvis costume with the slogan "Love Me Tender" and the website - www.eatbigbrucebeef.ca - a dual promotion for Collingwood's famous Elvis Presley celebrations and our local fare at the same time! Interesting and extremely creative... What could you do with your product, an event and a complimentary slogan that ties the two together?
My holiday on the 401, provided me the opportunity to consider the transport truck behind me - wondering what the impact was on his load (was it perishable or non), would he be penalized for late deliveries, would his cargo affect production if he was heading to JIT plant, and how would he ever manoeuvre his vehicle through the tangled mess of cars and trucks and motorcycles when everyone inevitably tried to surge ahead... and if after all of that, would he be stopped by construction again before he gets any further down the road? I recognized what a critical and integral part transportation of our goods plays in all of our businesses. What can we do to improve transportation efficiency? There are so many facets to moving our goods from one place to another - we need to learn from others making strides in that arena to see where we too can improve.
At Swiss Chalet in Woodbridge I couldn't help but pick up a ketchup bottle that challenged me with "Guess what my bottle is made of?" Heinz has developed a plant based material for their new bottles that improves recyclability by 30%. What are we doing to decrease our impact on the environment - at work, at home, in the community? Are we building this into our business strategies? Do we understand the significance?
Lavender ice cream and gluten free sausages...if you can dream it. What does the customer want and what is she willing to pay for? What can we do differently? What do the trends tells us? Where can we go from here?
Wherever I go, a notebook goes with me. I never know when that "spark" might ignite... After this holiday though, one thing that I can guarantee is that an apple or two, a completely charged cell phone, and a good book may also be packed in my car for any future summer vacations that take me across the 401 - just in case...
Do you have some similar vacation learning experiences that you would like to share?
All the best!