Originally posted on Savannah Now here.

A panel of community business leaders discussed the role that curiosity and creativity can play in companies’ problem solving, innovation and continuous improvement before a crowd of nearly 90 people Thursday at the final Georgia Tech-Savannah Learning Series of the year.

The breakfast session, “Discovering the Power of Your Creative Side,” featured Brynn Grant, chief operating officer of Savannah Economic Development Authority; Greg Parker, CEO of The Parker Companies; Jennifer Abshire, founder and chief creative officer of Abshire Public Relations; and Howard Morrison, banker/advisor to emerging technology companies.

“In business, whether you’re a large company or a small one, science, technology and imagination can be applied to create a new market value,” said Ned Ellington, a Georgia Tech faculty member who led the session. “Opportunities lead to the development of innovative ideas, which in turn lead to new products, services, processes or business models.”

For Parker, those innovative ideas originated with the female consumer experience.

“We try to view everything through the lens of the working mother and know how important it is to create retail environments that please women,” he said. “How do we solve problems for customers and make their experience a better one? We implement technology to deliver the ultimate retail experience to Parker’s customers, but at the end of the day, great ideas have to marry best timing.”

Abshire said it takes two distinct skill sets to effectively innovate within a business.

“There are two muscles necessary: discovery and delivery,” she said. “I’m more of the discovery/idea person, but it helps I have a team with strengths in actually delivering for the client.”

Grant, noting SEDA’s success with JCB and Crossroads Business Center, said business leaders should also be prepared for failure.

“You can put the same energy, creativity and innovation into a project and it can go in the completely opposite direction,” she said. “You have to be OK with the fact people will fail. Great leaders make employees feel safe.”

Business leaders should also approach problems from a variety of disciplines, Morrison said.

“Every solution starts with identifying a problem, and solutions are achieved at the intersection of disciplines,” he said. “Make the mechanical engineers sit next to the electrical engineers sit next to the chemical engineers. If you play to people’s strengths, you’ll get better results.”


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