Alumni Forums: A Competitive Edge, Organizational Creativity Part 2

Alumni Forums: A Competitive Edge, Organizational Creativity Part 2


We tend to focus a lot on the internal organizational culture. I’ve noticed that leading companies that are really
known to be innovative also kind of raise the level of consciousness of how we interact with the environment, or
how we shape regulation, or how we shape communities. What I was curious is, from your perspectives, how does the external environment shape
your organization’s creative definition, and how does that definition change with
the external environment? I can tell you from the business I’m
in, that’s about as timely as you can imagine. The regulations that we have to deal
with as company for children, with, the regulations with the use of lead, the regulations of things that are in plastic, and those plastic things go in babies’
mouths… so things that we have to do that affect
our creativity are actually quite vast, and as a big corporation and as a leader in the
industry, when we have missteps, which have
happened recently with lead, we have to make sure that we
represent what’s good about the company and, and what’s good about the industry end
to accept that a mistake was made and change it, and then become a change leader
actually.That’s such a big deal because the one thing, again as industry that deals with babies and
children, you can’t lose that trust that you have with parents. And so, so the changes that are being made throughout the industry,
not just with Mattel, are being lead now by Mattel and Fisher-Price. And so I think
that’s a very good example of responsibility to your environment. The other thing I think that’s really
important with any industry is how involved you are with your community, and how does
that infuse the people that work within your company
and going back outward? Day of Caring, working with
United Way, Habitat for Humanity… and anytime that anyone wants to do anything
like that within our company, it’s not even a blink. It’s like, “Yeah, just do it. It’s good for you, it’s good for the company, it’s good for
the people you work with.” So I think that again is part of the culture is,
you’re not just putting product on the table to make money. You’re making people better. I think that’s the thing that’s so
important about working in a toy company is that, as silly as a little thing might be that
we’re doing, every time we, we make a relationship between mom and dad and their baby a happy
memory, it’s like your you’re building a person. You have a role in building
that person. And I think that’s just an important thing that again I believe is
infused throughout not just the designers, anyone who works at my company. It’s very important. Again, with regulations in food, obviously
there are ton of regulations when it comes to food and consumers eating behaviors are changing all the
time, and the trends, and, you know, this whole thing with trans fat,
non trans fat… We have got to be creative every
day when it comes to reformulating product to get that stuff out and our food is all decadent, our food is,
you know, it’s cookies and brownies and cakes and toppings, so you know, it we’re not a low cal type… type of food product. However,
as consumers do say, you know, what we’ve learned, you know, we don’t want to eat as
much bread and rolls and all of that, that’s all the carbs, what do we do to react to that, and react
quickly, in order to serve those needs? So it’s
constantly being aware of what’s happening outside of the company and what we
need to do in order to meet those demands and needs to stay competitive is extremely important. And when, you know, when it gets back
to the community, it’s absolutely giving back to the community, and that’s one of
our values is doing what’s right. And so we have got all sorts of
initiatives going on from again Meals-on-Wheels and Day of Caring
and we have organized groups going out there
and saying, You know what? We have to be conscious of what the communities are.” And that happens across the world, too. I was over in the UK not too long
ago and there was this park with Rich Products’ name on it. And that’s a park that, you know, we keep clean over there. So
it’s extremely important across the world to, to continue to be good communities,
good… be good neighbors in our communities, and
be aware of the impacts that we’re having. And, you know, just making sure as we’re doing different packaging, you know? What is the best packaging and
how do we make sure it’s recyclable? So what we used to do last week has
got to change this week and change next week, because if we just stay, you know, where we used to be, we’re not
gonna remain competitive and survive. So it has to do not with just our bottom
line and us being profitable, but making sure we understand the
community, the community needs, the consumer needs, and
reacting to them and giving back. I think the important thing also is trends,
is to observe the trends in society and how does it affect your product? As you said about calories and trans fats, that same trend
of childhood obesity (it’s another way of looking at our calorie issues) was
something that we had to say “What role can we play in helping?” We obviously can’t prevent it, we can’t
change, necessarily, change behaviors, but we can provide product that gets kids more active. And so one of one of the ways that we
started thinking, again, when we were doing our long-range planning was, one of my groups is learning
group, so I do overt learning products. Sometimes that’s considered medicine
to a lot of kids, so jeez, how are we going to make that fun? Well at the same time we say, “Okay, moms
and dads really want that kind of product, but kids would rather watch TV. Hm. But kids also really like to be active. How do we do all of that together and make a great
toy?” So that’s where the product Smart Cycle came from which is a little riding, it’s like the ride-on
toy that’s in front of the TV that you’re learning but you really think
you’re at Chuck E Cheese and you’re at an arcade. So that the whole connection of taking the trend of childhood obesity, the trend of interactive gaming, and the trend of needs for
literacy and education, all of which are really important trends, how could we put it together and make a
really great product that oh, by the way, makes the company a lot of money? ‘Cause we have to think like that as well. So being able to weigh out you know the money that we need to make
and satisfy shareholders with the good that we want to do for the
children, the parents, and the educators, that’s really
important. That whole idea of assimilating all of those needs, again,
they become societal needs with these trends as well. What do you see as… let’s look to the
future for a minute. And if you think about, I’m going to rework this a little, your role
and the role of others in building a more creative society. It’s kind of like a question. I
changed the question a little bit, but… You’re throwing us off here. [laughter]
We studied! Just as I’ve sat here and I’ve
listened to both Shari and Miriam, it reminds me that we need
more. We need more of this within
organizations. And it just can’t start sometimes. I think you heard some of the
tenured at Fisher-Price. So it just can’t start in business.
It almost has to go ell the way down in this continuum of learning all
the way to K through 12, And then even beyond K-16. Beyond that it requires learning and
developing, so if you can imagine using creativity, putting creativity back in the school
systems again, where now you’re starting to teach
it and starting to be to learned at earlier ages, and again at the college level, you start to see it again at the
college level. So that by the time you do get into the workplace, you know, ten years from today, it could be a totally different environment in
the business community, because it’s more accepting. They’ve learned to use it. So a creative change in the future! I’d certainly love to be able
to see the word creativity a good thing and not a fuzzy thing, and see that it gets through the entire continuum
of learning. It’s so important, that Sue mentioned earlier, that she taught my kids, and that was actually Sue’s program at Campus West in Buffalo. And she had my kids I think at four and five years old.
-Very young. So that’s when, I mean, if not before, just
that whole idea, I think it really… we can’t necessarily depend on
the schools. We want the schools to teach creatively, absolutely. But in reality it’s about the parents. It’s about, it’s about how we as adults are, and how comfortable we are being parents
and having this ability to mold our children
to start them out right, and to make them independent children and think
creatively, so when creativity as a word gets brought up in school it’s not foreign to them. It’s what they do. It’s what is accepted in their home. And so I
think that’s the thing for all of us who are around kids whether they’re our
kids. our grandchildren, or somebody else’s kids, is to just infuse children with creativity and also to be a part of their lives in school, so if you don’t
see it enough in school, you become a part of it in school.
I think that is so, so very important and again I thank Sue quite a bit, because my kids still remember. I have, my kids are, I have an almost seventeen-year-old and a
fourteen-and-a-half-year-old in they still remember Miss Sue. It was a partnership, wasn’t it?
Yes! It was! And the kids are very
comfortable with it all that hands-on and the thinking, and teaching the creative process to little kids, they just, they suck it up. It’s great
stuff and I think that’s extremely, extremely important. Yeah, I think it’s all about continuing to
encourage children and people to keep that childlike look. And when you said, you know,
don’t fear failure… This weekend I had my my one niece
over, she’s eight years old, she’s playing with eggs, we were going to
make eggs for breakfast, and she’s playing with them, and I said, “Honey, you know, just leave the eggs alone.
You’re going to break them. Don’t touch ’em anymore.” And I turned and
what do I hear? Splat. Right on the floor. So I turned around and
I says, “What did I tell you? I asked you not to play with the eggs.” And she looked up and she said, “But now
it’s perfect, ’cause there’s three people and we had seven eggs. Now there’s only six.”
[laughter] And you know, she looked at a bad situation and made logical sense out of
it, very positive. So how do we learn from that? Instead of saying, “Holy cow, we screwed up here, we messed up,”
but what is the positive and how do you just continue to
encourage that, and, you know, just value that childlike perspective? So you know, in children continue to nurture
it, and when you get into the workplace
continue to nurture it, and you know, just overall I try and work with different organizations
outside the company because it reminds me how important that is. My church and
a couple churches have asked me, “Can you do strategic planning? Can you do some team building?”
I just recently worked with another organization with breast cancer and they
were trying to develop a strategic vision, and so I just find so many applications.
And if we continue to infuse this thinking, and just a little bit of it at a
time, but value what it’s all about and get different people to to value that and work with that all the time, I just think it’s going to
make a world of difference. It keeps you sharp, too, when you work with
different organizations are outside your, your normal group. Those different perspectives that you get.

Danny Hutson

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