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How to "get a good cash crop yield from business innovation"

Years ago, I helped a Fortune 50 company establish an electronic suggestion box for its intranet. Generous tax-paid bonuses would be awarded for ideas that reduce operating costs and increase productivity. All an employee needed to do was go online, sign in, and state the suggestion. One recent hire in the mail distribution center at corporate headquarters suggested that, except for an emergency, each next-business day delivery document or package be shipped only on Fridays. That simple suggestion saved the company about $800,000 the first year and offers an example of "low-hanging fruit" that can so easily be "harvested."

According to Jeremy Eden and Terri Long, "To get a good cash crop yield from business innovation, leaders must have six elements in place. They must provide problem-solving skills, motivate employees [or as I prefer to describe it, inspire employees to motivate themselves], organize collaboration across units, make decisions quickly, build implementation skills, and create accountability to deliver hard-dollar benefits."

Among the 77 chapters of material that Eden and Long provide, these were of greatest interest and value to me.

o Ask "Why?" Five Times to See the Real Problem (Chapter 3)
o Don't Be Fooled by Misleading Metrics: Zero in on the Ugly and Rattle the Status Quo by Turning Metrics Upside Down (6)
o Use Brainstorming in a New Way: To Find Problems, Not Solutions (10)
o Stop Ignoring Your Introverts (13)
o Use a Checklist -- It Works for Pilots and Brain Surgeons, and It Will Work for You! (20)
o Give People What They Need, Not What They Want (22)
o The Five Surprising Words That Keep a Good Executive from Being Great (30)
o Executive Motivators That Demotivate Everyone Else (32)
o Eliminate Corporate Whac-A-Mole (38)
o The One Monthly Meeting You Must Hold (46)
o The Devil's in the Details: Track Every Idea, Every Dollar, Every Month (55)
o The Golden Rule: Withdraw and Replace Ideas That Don't Increase Earnings (56)
o It's Not What You Start, It's What You Finish (61)
o Daniel Patrick Moynihan: "Everyone is Entitled to Their Opinion, but Not Their Own Facts" (64)
o The Obligation to Dissent (70)

Eden and Long discuss each of these and the other subjects that the chapter titles indicate, providing a wealth of information, insights, and counsel with regard to HOW to improve productivity and profits. Readers will also appreciate the insertion of relevant quotations throughout the narrative. Here's the head note to Chapter 36, Rally the Troops, provided by Simon Sinek: "Average companies give their people something to work on. Innovative companies give their people something to work toward." By the way, Sinek's latest and best book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't, has just been published by Portfolio/The Penguin Group. I highly recommend it.

While re-reading this book prior to composing this brief commentary, I was again reminded of situations in which obvious business opportunities, the low-hanging fruit of potentiality, were harvested by ordinary people who were extraordinarily alert. For example:

o George de Mestral, a Swiss electrical engineer who came up with the idea for Velcro while removing burrs from his dog's hair.

o Arthur Fry who co-invented Post-it so he could locate selections in his hymnal when singing in his church choir

o Mary Kay Ash who added a fragrance to leather softener lotion and sold it as hand cream, the basis of her global cosmetics firm

o Bette Nesmith Graham was an amateur painter who returned to work as an executive secretary, applied gesso with a paintbrush to correct her typing errors, and "mistakes out" became Liquid Paper

They suggest to me that almost anyone who overcomes what I call the invisibility of the obvious can produce an abundant harvest in the vineyards of free enterprise. I agree with Jeremy Eden and Terri Long that, whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations have almost unlimited opportunities for improvement of what is done and how it is done.

* * *

More a quibble than a complaint, this book has no index. I hope one will be added if and when there is a second edition.
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on March 18, 2014
The authors focus on practical advice that can be equally applicable to big or smaller firms. Having practical experience applying their advice in the real world adds to their credibility. Clearly written and jargon free. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on March 3, 2014
Low-Hanging Fruit is a book about business that is both simple and powerful.

The style in which it is written: short, bite-sized chapters that always provide a relatable, real-world example, allow you to truly absorb and internalize the information.

Better still, it all makes sense on a gut-instinct level.

In short: front line employees have many great ideas that can add up to incredible savings, create new efficiencies, and propel your business even further without costly overhauls or acquisitions.

A CEO who picks up this book will have his or her eyes opened to the untapped potential that's already within the company.

It also resonates with entry level employees who have great ideas but may feel like they don't have a voice.

It encourages critical thinking and creates a dialogue within the company.

It's a genuinely useful book for any business, big or small, and will help you see the world differently.

Aim for the stars, but don't forget to pick the low hanging fruit along the way!
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on March 27, 2014
Low-Hanging Fruit was a helpful book to gain practical business knowledge that has already proved to be applicable to many things I encounter daily at work. An easy read and clever book, I recommend this to anyone looking for thoughtful business advice.
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on March 14, 2014
Eden and Long offer a fresh perspective on ways anyone can improve their business. They turn conventional wisdom upside down with suggestions like "accentuate the negative". This book will make you take a look at your business from a different point of view that will lead to the bottom line.
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on February 24, 2015
Need some fresh ideas and energy--read this book. There are plenty of case studies to stimulate your thinking. It's the perfect pick me up if you're looking to innovate or just recharge your thinking.
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on April 1, 2014
I have consulted to many companies, and I think this (concise and accessible) book is mandatory for businesses of virtually any size. There is no company that can't benefit from better utilization of its resources, greater efficiency in how it manages its expenses, and an all-around more thorough understanding of its true problems - and opportunities - and how to best resolve the problems and capitalize on the opportunities.

Unlike so many other books on business that have one or two great ideas padded out to several hundred pages, "Low Hanging Fruit" presents, well, 77 distinct ideas and concepts. Many will have differing relevance to companies at various times in their evolution, but the overall impact is compelling. As others here have mentioned, the magic is in how easily the authors apply the concepts to a variety of situations and examples. It's clear that they've truly - and painfully - been there and done that.

I've read it twice so far, since the ideas come so quickly. I also compiled a list as I read of all the senior managers I needed to send a copy to!
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on March 19, 2014
This book is packed with simple but powerful ideas for improving productivity and profitability. The authors share their wisdom in an easy to read and humorous fashion, translating their experiences into stories I could relate to and offering practical common sense approaches for making positive changes. Thank you Jeremy and Terri for opening my eyes to my own bountiful garden of low hanging fruit!
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on July 6, 2014
A great book for larger organizations; it talks about many things that can be done, should be done, but may never get done.
Why? Because we have a current basic resistance to change in our organizations.
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on March 14, 2014
I enjoyed this book, which is written in easy, accessible language in short digestible vignettes. The real world examples and straightforward discourse made it easy for me to "get it"- to understand the ideas presented. My favorite was "stop ignoring your introverts". These powerful ideas and perspectives are just the nudge I needed.
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