Our Recent Craft Spirits Work

By Tony Vengrove

In addition to the Innovation and Creative Leadership project work Miles Finch Innovation performs for clients up and down the east coast, we are proud of the marketing and branding engagements we have with CT-local startup businesses.

Over the past two years, we enjoyed participating in the emerging craft-spirits movement taking place in Connecticut. Here are some examples of our recent work.

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Litchfield Distillery, Litchfield, CT:

We are the agency of record for Litchfield Distillery. We partnered to develop their branding strategy and positioning, helped to create their “Batchers’ philosophy” and Spirit of Hard Work™ tagline, and designed all 10 of their bottle labels. We proudly continue our partnership today, providing marketing, promotional and PR support of their award-winning spirits.

 

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Mine Hill Distillery, Roxbury, CT:

We’re helping this new distillery get off the ground by designing their brand identity, logo and packaging labels. Mine Hill Distillery is located on the historic Roxbury Station property in Roxbury, CT and is chock full of interesting local history. Look for Mine Hill to start filling bottles and open the doors to their distillery in early 2017–the distillery is shaping up to be absolutely beautiful.

 

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Connecticut Spirits Trail:

The newly formed CT Spirits Trail is comprised of fine craft spirits makers from all parts of the state of Connecticut. We were thrilled to create the logo and look forward to visiting all the distilleries ourselves!

If you’re a CT-based business in need of brand identity and marketing support, we’d be happy to tell you more about our services. When it comes to marketing and branding, we choose to work with Connecticut businesses only. Our mission is to help local companies grow and succeed so they can create jobs and help our wonderful state rebound from its current economic condition.

For more information, please email Tony Vengrove at info@milesfinchinnovation.com or call at 860-799-7505.

Advocating Innovation on NYBERG

By Tony Vengrove

I had the pleasure of joining Ann Nyberg on her show to discuss innovation and the challenges facing our great state, Connecticut. There are many issues and opportunities to consider and we only scratched the surface. But, I’m encouraged by the amazing community of entrepreneurs and change agents that are collaborating to make a difference. Working together to build community and a bigger collective brain is the only way we’ll make a meaningful impact.

Ann is a true advocate for sharing the stories and work of innovators–it’s clear she cares about helping make a difference. I encourage you to sign up for her Network Connecticut newsletter or business directory.

Creative Writing On Demand

By Tony Vengrove

Boisterous Children

I recently had the pleasure of visiting downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania during the holiday break. This small city is worth getting to know. There is a great group of citizens, brimming with creative energy and passion, working hard to create a more vibrant community and economy.

During my walk, I rounded a corner and discovered the city’s creative energy on full display: I met Abigail Mott, a poet. She sat quietly by the edge of the street on a small chair in front of a folding table with a beautiful antique typewriter resting upon it. A paper sign, secured only by the weight of the typewriter, hung over the front edge of the table. It read, “Pick a Subject, Get a Poem.”

I was intrigued. I made a beeline and inquired about her story.

Abigail grew up in Lancaster and currently lives in Colorado. She was back home visiting for the holidays and set up shop just outside the busy Lancaster Market to engage the community with her poetry on-demand project.

I love stuff like this and immediately requested a poem. My topic: boisterous children. (I have three kids, two of which are 3-year-old twin toddlers.) She told me it takes about ten minutes to compose a poem.

Abigail inserted a small piece of typewriter paper into her machine. The paper itself was special–a beautiful cream color with a delicate quilt texture. She immediately began to type. There was no moment of deep contemplative thought or writer’s block; she dove right in. Click, click, click.Abigail Typing

I stepped away to give her some space. When she reached for her camera phone to snap a picture of her work I knew it was time to return. As I approached the table, the rest of my family, including my three kids, had caught up to me, just in time to hear Abigail read the poem herself.

I love it all. I love the poem. I love the simplicity of what she is doing. It’s brilliant.

It’s also a great reminder on this first Monday of 2016 that we’re all empowered to utilize our creative gifts and that we possess everything we need to start now. There’s no excuse to stall or complain about a lack of resources. Grab a simple pencil and paper (or an old typewriter), let go of that inner judge, and dive right in!

If you’re intrigued with Abigail’s work, be sure to check out her Tumblr and follow her on Twitter.

Wishing you all a very creative and innovative 2016. Happy New Year!

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

The 2015 Post Worth Re-Reading

By Tony Vengrove

Raphael HernandezinKabul

As we approach the end of 2015 and look forward to a new year with a refreshed sense of optimism and hope, I’d like to invite you to re-read our favorite Miles Finch Innovation post of 2015. The post was guest written by Raphael Hernandez who recalled a poignant story from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Raphael reflected on an encounter with Anwar, a 10-year-old boy he met while shopping in a crowded market on Kabul’s Chicken Street.

Raphael used the story to glean lessons about employee engagement and salesmanship. While the piece holds its own in this regard, it’s actually much more powerful when we consider the disconcerting events taking place across the globe. When we look at the story through the lens of increasing global conflict, we’re reminded of a simple remedy: the uplifting power of human connection.

There’s been so many tragic events during the past year with an equal amount of troubling trends that lay before us. Sadly, I fear things may get worse before they get better. The increasingly divisive nature of our national and global discourse is especially disconcerting. It seems many of us are separating into factions and digging into our philosophical trenches for the long haul.

Raphael’s piece reminds us that we can overcome stereotypes and labels with a simple hello. We can build community and friendships by asking questions and listening. We can create lasting friendships when we refrain from judgment. We can make the world better if we care enough to serve others before we cater to our own selfish needs. We can start by making eye contact and smiling.

Please read Raphael’s post, What a 10-Year-Old Boy From Kabul Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement, and take a few moments to reflect on what you will do in 2016 to connect, build community and make a positive difference–wherever you are. If so inclined, please share your ideas and thoughts below.

My personal reflection on Raphael’s story and the power of human connection brought me back to our Seven C’s of Creative Leadership–“Connecting” is one of the seven principles. As I considered all Seven C’s in context of this post, I realized they also serve as a great framework for driving change in the world.

So, here they are, re-written as a 2016 Call-to-Action for Change!

communcation1. Let’s commit to healthy COMMUNICATION. Let’s listen and understand before we speak and judge.

curiosity2. Let’s be CURIOUS about other people’s perspectives and traditions. Let’s understand the “Why” before we jump to conclusions and label things good or bad.

creativity3. Let’s be CREATIVE about finding solutions to problems. The “how things are done around here” mentally is slowing dying off. We’re empowered to utilize our miraculous creative powers to discover better ways to get things done.

connecting4. Let’s extend our hands and hearts to lift others up. It’s harder to hate someone when you’ve CONNECTED with them on a human level.

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5. Let’s embrace the diversity of all world CULTURES. It not only makes the world more interesting, it inspires creative connections that can unleash innovation.

change-management6.  Let’s commit to CHANGE. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and commentate on the state of affairs. It’s up to us to make a difference.

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7. Let’s have the COURAGE to walk to the talk or, as Raphael and his fellow Marines would say, “Let’s make it happen.”

And with that, it’s time to sing Auld Lang Syne and flip the calendar. Happy New Year!

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

How To Stifle Innovation

By Tony Vengrove
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This post is an adaption of an article that originally appeared on Intrepid Now.

I recently reacquainted myself with a great book, The Change Masters: Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the American Corporation, written by Rosabeth Moss Kanter in 1983. Given the prodigious rise of innovation, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship in the past decade or so, it’s safe to say this book was ahead of its time.

I say this because as I reread it, I came upon a list I had completely forgotten: Kanter’s 10 Rules for Stifling Innovation. While written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, she clearly nails how executive leaders so easily squash the creative spirit out of organizations. As you read the list, ask yourself if these insights are still relevant today:

1. Regard any new idea with suspicion – because it’s new, and because it’s from below.

2. Insist that people who need your approval to act first go through several other layers or management to get their signatures.

3. Ask departments or individuals to challenge or criticize each other’s proposals. (That saves you the trouble of deciding – you just pick the survivor.)

4. Express your criticisms freely, and withhold your praise. (That keeps people on their toes.) Let them know they can be fired at any time.

5. Treat identification of problems as signs of failure, to discourage people from letting you know when something in their area isn’t working.

6. Control everything, carefully. Make sure that people count everything that can be counted, frequently.

7. Make decisions to reorganize or change policies in secret, and spring them on people unexpectedly. (That also keeps people of their toes.)

8. Make sure that requests for information are fully justified, and make sure that it is not given out to managers freely. (You don’t want data to fall into the wrong hands.)

9. Assign to lower-level managers, in the name of delegation and participation, responsibility for figuring out how to cut back, layoff, move people around, or otherwise implement threatening decisions that you have made. And get them to do it quickly.

10. Above all, never forget that you, the higher-ups, already know everything important about this business.

Brilliant, yes?

While much has changed in the corporate world since 1983, the command-and-control leadership style was still in full force back in those days and accepted by many as a successful, if not important, leadership style. Perhaps that’s why the concept of fear isn’t articulated in Kanter’s list, although you might opine it’s implied between the lines. Fear, after all, is central to the command and control style: If you don’t do as I say and deliver, there will be consequences—severe consequences.

In Art of the Idea, John Hunt states, “Fear might be a strong catalyst for entrenching obedience, but it’s a lousy motivator for fresh thinking.”

How true!

Creativity and innovation can’t be bullied into being. Like a turtle, conditions need to be safe and secure before employees will stick their necks out and engage with the creative process.

Kanter’s list also infers that innovation isn’t a process-driven system that can be managed like other business systems. It’s a unique beast. Innovation requires a different style of leadership—creative leadership. Kanter isn’t finding fault with process, she’s indicting poor leadership and poor culture.

If it’s so easy to stifle innovation as Kanter demonstrates, shouldn’t it be just as easy to un-stifle it? Here’s how her list reads if you simply embrace the opposite behavior. I shall call them Vengrove’s 10 Rules for Un-Stifling Innovation:

1. Evaluate any new idea with possibility – look for reasons why it might work, why it’s on strategy, why it’s aligned with consumer insight.

2. Embrace a flatter organizational structure that makes decision making more efficient and productive. Don’t make the process of sharing and advancing ideas burdensome—your employees already have full plates.

3. Don’t allow people to criticize other people’s ideas or proposals without first articulating something positive.

4. Praise and reward people for having the courage to share their ideas. Offer criticism in context of objectives; explain criticism in terms of why something is off strategy. (That keeps people focused on finding solutions to your concerns.) Let them know you embrace and accept failure—that failure is part of the innovation process.

5. Embrace problems as a way to catalyze creative thinking and creative problem solving.

6. If you’re going to control anything, control the objectives and strategy. Then empower people to figure out how to best achieve your goals. Align them on what’s important, and then get out of the way.

7. Communicate about changes early and often—involve the whole organization. Embrace the spirit that people won’t always agree with your decisions, but they’ll know why you made your decisions.

8. Make it easy for anyone to gain access to information they need to advance their work. Data is not the entitlement of the market research department.

9. Embrace diversity and invite a wide-ranging group of people to the innovation table.

10. Above all, never forget that you, the higher-ups, don’t have all the answers or the best ideas.

That’s a pretty good checklist for leaders seeking to develop their creative leadership abilities. If you’re struggling to get your innovation agenda unstuck, perhaps the first step to take is self-evaluation. Are you promoting any of Kanter’s stifling behaviors? If so, what are you going to do about it?

Most employees are begging for change and the opportunity to work for a company that embraces rather than stifles innovation. If the actions of leaders set the tone and culture of the organization, then it’s up to leadership to demonstrate the desired behaviors they want to see in others. That means you can make a huge difference. That means you can help un-stifle innovation. That means you can start now!

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.