3 ways your innovation may be hidden in the trees

chukar cherriesMy business travel recently took me to the Tri-Cities area of Washington state.  This area is known for its orchards and vineyards.  Chukar Cherries is headquartered there and a random stop to their store inspired this latest article.

Since 1988 Chukar had been known for its bountiful cherry harvests.  The owner Pam soon discovered that many cherries went unpicked after harvest. This allowed the natural sugars to build until the fruit dried on the branch.  On impulse one day she ate a few of the shriveled cherries. They were chewy, naturally sweet, and delicious.

In 1988 Chukar opened a cherry drying facility and storefront in the small town of Prosser, Washington. Enthusiastic customers fueled growth and in 1992 Chukar launched a second store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Our third store in the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, WA opened in July of 2012.

Not only was the shop a pure delight (the helpful staff ensure you get to sample any product you like), but the variety of products are proof of the innovation that inspired them.

Your business may not be cherries.  But for whatever your product or service, Chukar’s innovative practices could be the secret to your next breakthrough.

#1  Look past the first answer
It would have been easy for Pam to simply discard the leftover fruit and instead redirect the team to focus on gathering more of the berries during harvest. That “first thought” is often easier to pursue. Your brain went to that idea first and perhaps, it’s even a logical next step. However, innovation often lives in that next idea or even the 5th of 6th notion. To unleash your creativity, resist the urge to pursue what comes easiest. Those “out of the box” ideas are closer than you think.

#2  Say yes before no
Human nature can make it easy to say no to new ideas much faster than a yes. No allows us to keep doing what we are doing or even stay in a comfort zone. But yes allows us to ask “what if?” Will you have all the answers on a new idea? No. The Chukar team didn’t. They knew they had some delicious dried cherries. What they could do with it was still to be determined. Saying yes allowed them to begin exploring. The same is true with your breakthroughs. Rarely will you be able to see a clear path with your idea. That’s okay. You just have to be willing to say yes one step at a time.

#3  Involve others in the dream
I met several employees as I strolled around the Chukar store. Not only was everyone friendly and helpful (which is refreshing); but each one knew Chukar’s story and happily shared it. And the best part, it was their story too. Statements began with “we” and “our” and I could hear real ownership and pride in why and how they do what they do. In your world, how involved in your team in those wild ideas or pilot programs? Get them involved because when they own it magic starts to happen.

If you ever pass through the Tri-Cities area of Washington, you must stop by Chukar Cherries. The good news is you can find their products online too. Trust me, you’ll love what they did with innovation It’s delicious.

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