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Cultivating Innovation in All You Do

Recognize the Opportunities for Innovation


In this day and age, there's nothing more important for a manager, than the ability to innovate. One day it's a pandemic, the next day it's a different crisis. Suddenly there's an issue with a customer. What used to work may not be working the same that it used to. And you have to look for continual improvements, ways that you can adjust and innovate so that things will get you the same result, even if you can't go about getting that result in the same way.

It's a little bit like making a recipe. With my straw bale garden, I have grown so many things that I have never experienced before and I have been experimenting in the kitchen. It's another one of my hobbies. And I'd like to share with you a few of those twists and innovations that I discovered along the way. Similarly, I hope that you will be able to make some adjustments along the way and everything that you cook up. When you're experimenting in the kitchen, it helps if you already have a good foundation and the basics.

And that's true in the work that you do, too. You've got to master the basics before you can go out on your own. So be sure and get those things in sequence, master the basics and then put yourself into it and fill a little bit more liberated to experiment and innovate. 2018 was the first year that I had a straw bale garden. That year, I grew the basics and I mostly cooked what I already knew. I had to get adjusted to my new kitchen and warmed back up with this hobby that I hadn't had a lot of time to spend with the years while I was living in California.

This is an important thing to consider in the work you do too. Master the basics, make sure that you're solid in the essentials of the work that you do, and then you can begin to innovate and experiment. 2019 was an incredible year in the straw bale garden because we had a very mild summer. It wasn't too cool. We had sunshine almost every day, but it also wasn't too hot and I could grow anything. I could do no wrong and we had such a bountiful harvest.

This year remains to be seen 2020, but it has started out pretty hot and I'm having to make some adjustments because of that. What I grow influences what I cook. And the things that are ready for harvest at the same time is what forces me to experiment.

A lot of the herbs come in. They start coming in at about the same time and I can dry those and I do, and then I am able to use them all year round. But I also like to get creative with what I'm doing with them, so I can try some Swiss chard, something I never tried until I grew it. And I can try that and see what it's like with some beet tops mixed in. Let's see what that tastes like this time with with some dill. And next time, what happens if you put a little bit of sage into that? Each time it's an experiment. And I experiment not with great big batches, but with a little batches, sometimes simultaneously, because I want to make sure before I proceed that the outcome is going to be a good one.

When I'm growing in my garden, I can't completely control the volume that is ready at the same time. So there might be a day when I get so many potatoes and carrots and I've got a few leftover beets that are coming in that I've got to make something right now if I'm going to get the freshness, and then it's okay to freeze it. I also use vacuum seals and I have a dehydrator. So I have lots of options for things that I can do, like making beet and parsnip and rutabaga chips, for example.

When I cook, I try to push myself to make things in ways that I've never quite made them before. And not every one of those is a complete success. But mostly 98% of the time I'll say we really enjoy what I'm able to make. I have experimented so much since I've had my garden. I've made things that I had never heard of.

I got into a little tangent of looking up and making things that were heirloom recipes, things that they would make back in the 1800 or early 1900. And because of that, I made a beautiful blueberry lavender jam. It's probably my most popular giveaway item. Everybody always wants more of that. Right behind it is corn cob jelly. That's jelly made out of nothing but the cobs of corn.

I made eight varieties of pickles and I made those pickles with cucumbers that I grew and with my own dill and with my own mustard seeds. If you've never dealt with mustard seeds, be prepared to spend a little bit of time, they ripen in these tiny little pods and then you have to get them off the plant before the pods will burst. Then you have to dry them. And then it's painstaking to pull each and every mustard seed out of each and every pot.

But so worth it to be able to say that every ingredient in that jar of pickles came directly from your own garden. I've made every conceivable type of zucchini bread and cake and relish and salad. We like zucchini, that's a fortunate thing. And then I freeze it and we just about run out by the time the new stuff is coming into the garden in the new season. Whatever it is that you like to do, put some of that into the experimenting and innovating.

You see, whatever you have confidence in, that's what's going to make it more likely that you will take the chance. It's also what's going to make it more likely that you're successful. When you're doing something that's completely different from anything you've ever done before, you will lack confidence and you should. That's a good time to get resourced and to take some small steps along the way for continual improvement.

But don't be afraid to take some risks and to try new things. What's the worst that can happen? It's probably not going to be fatal and it's probably not going to be something that anyone but you remembers one or two days from now. So go for it. Make it your own. Cook up something that's never been conceived or thought of or done before and have a little fun with it along the way.