Build & Develop

The Shelf Life of Creativity

Front entry of apartment with creative shelf

As you all know, creativity is one of our core values. In this column, I want to address how creativity and innovation are interrelated, as well as explain why this is a key to the success of our business and why I believe it is critical to the success of any long-lasting business.

The key to successful innovation is to really try to understand the perspective of the people we serve, to get into their heads and comprehend the way they see things. Think about the things we currently do that could be better. Then think about ways to address those issues.

Let me use the Bozzuto shelf as an example. In every property we develop, we put a shelf outside the entrance to each resident’s home or apartment. We do this not just as a way of branding the property as “a Bozzuto-developed community,” although it certainly does that. We do this because we listened to our customers and watched carefully as they went about their day. We saw a problem and we addressed it.

Many years ago, as we were planning a senior citizen community, a consultant suggested to us that having a shelf outside each entry would make the customer’s life easier. He reminded us of how aggravating it is, regardless of age, to come home and have to put your briefcase or purse on the floor to dig out your door key. His thought: If we put a shelf outside the door, it would provide the customer with a convenient place to put their bags, groceries, etc., while they let themselves in. The shelf also allows the resident an opportunity to personalize the entrance of their apartment home. Finally, it sends them a message very early and repeatedly that we truly care about making their lives easy.

As you can see, innovation occurs when we think about what parts of “normal” life cause difficulties or frustration for our customers, and then creatively make changes to alleviate them. Innovation results when creativity is used to relieve that frustration.

Frustration and difficulties can surely be caused by the way buildings are designed, as my shelf example illustrates, but they can be created by processes we follow as well. Let me give you an example. Everyone requires that rent be paid monthly, even though most of us get paid biweekly. Well, some years ago, in the middle of a recession, we came up with the idea that, in exchange for a small fee, we would let residents split their rent and pay it every two weeks. A minor inconvenience for our accounting department, yes, but we created a whole lot of relief for some people in the middle of tough economic times.

Additionally, frustration or difficulties are not just limited to the experience of our customers. We all find there are hurdles or hassles that interfere with our abilities to do our jobs as well as we would like. Sometimes, these are caused by others—software that doesn’t work as well as it’s supposed to, for example. Other times, these are caused by processes that made sense in the past, but because people or technology have changed, don’t make sense today. Whatever the cause, we know this kind of frustration occurs in every aspect of our business. This is where innovation comes in!

Think about what we don’t do well, or as well as we would like. Think about things that make our customers or clients unhappy, and things that might make us less efficient in providing services or constructing buildings. Then think about a way for us to address those issues. This is where innovation comes from. This is where creativity comes in. And this is where you can make a real difference.

Learn more about Tom Bozzuto

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