Posts Tagged ‘best practices’

Coming Clean with Creativity

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Guest post by SVN member Tolulope Ilesanmi, Founder of Zenith Cleaners, @tilesanmi

Creativity is that seemingly elusive and desirable quality associated with the ability to think and act outside the box and bring into existence something new and beneficial. The new thing could be a product, a service, a solution, a work of art or a way of being. We do not necessarily need a survey to tell us we need creativity given the challenges and constraints we are confronted with today. It is obvious we need the ability to adapt, to come up with new ways of being and acting, because our significant challenges are not going away and intuitively, we know nothing is impossible. As Einstein said, “We need new thinking to address the significant challenges we face”. Organizations and institutions need to be innovative and that requires individuals to be creative.Guest Blogger Tolulope Ilesanmi on Bringing Ecosystems Together and the Magic of SVNs Bridge Project 1

Unveiling Creativity

The good news about creativity is that it isn’t a quality we need to create but a quality inherent in each of us, which we are either nurturing or starving. Cleaners go into spaces not to introduce anything new, but to expose inherent beauty by removing dirt.

At Zenith Cleaning, we defined cleaning as “the process of removing dirt from any space, surface, object or subject thereby revealing beauty, potential, truth and sacredness.”

The cleaning mindset works on the premise that the beauty we desire is already here, where we need it. Our task is to unveil it!. Creativity already exists in organizations because it already exists in individuals. Our task is to allow it to thrive, to allow it to flourish by removing what blocks it. Every human being is naturally creative when they have the freedom to express their true selves.

Nurturing creativity within organizations requires identifying and removing whatever impedes creativity in individuals. One impediment to creativity is lack of space-time “oasis” where our minds have the freedom to wander outside of our routine, to observe and ponder, as the actor/comedian John Cleese observed. Organizations like Google provide employees free time and mindfulness training in order to remove this impediment. Another impediment is our tendency to confine ourselves to or define ourselves by our titles, roles and functions, which we need as they provide stability in organizations. Trading places again and again can help to nurture creativity because breaking your regular pattern forces you in a good way to think new thoughts and awaken dormant potentialities. Trading places allows you to experience the beginner’s mind as Deb Nelson, SVN‘s Executive Director experienced when she flew down to Montreal to spend 3 days cleaning in our Cleaning as Practice program.

Cleaning as Practice

At Zenith Cleaning, we decided to step out of the box and introduce light duty cleaning to individuals and organizations as a way to break our regular patterns and step outside of our titles, roles and functions again and again. The idea is simple: invite people far removed from the world of cleaning to participate in cleaning individually or as a team, guided by those who do cleaning more regularly and get everyone from Janitor to CEO reflecting on and sharing their experience. This can be tried in any organization but should be entirely voluntary and can be tried with a few people before making it an ongoing or organization-wide practice.

This approach invites everyone to step out of their comfort zones and set aside their titles, roles and functions which only help to starve creativity and keep us in the box, away from the magic. The Janitor’s role and function changes for a while and the employees’ and managers’ roles are also flipped so everyone has to “think originally” as CEO Julian Giacomelli of Crudessence observed when he participated in our program.

Reflection and sharing are allowed to happen formally or informally before, during and after the experience. Everyone returns to their normal routines but are likely to wear their titles differently. However, just like cleaning needs to happen again and again because dust and dirt do not need our invitation to settle, we need to step out of our roles and set aside our titles again and again to remind ourselves that we are bigger than our titles, roles and functions.

The beauty of this approach is that creativity becomes not an end result but a by-product of a different way of being and functioning. The aim is that cleaning becomes the idea of unveiling beauty and potential in individuals and relationships. Cleaning becomes a mindset and deep metaphor for transformation and not just a chore around which we have created stigmas and put ourselves in boxes that limit our potential as individuals and organizations.

Talk to us

If you would like to try this out or need guidance, feel free to talk to us at Zenith Cleaners. We have been practicing and studying cleaning and its relationship to creativity, mindfulness, culture and many universal principles and subjects for many years. We have invited consultants, lawyers, students, executives and teams to clean and have observed the positive effect. We are also privileged to work with a number of outside-the-box consultants and coaches in mindfulness, applied improvisation and organizational culture.

Four Strategies to Establish a Clear and Profitable Vision

Posted on: July 31st, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Nadine A. Thompson & Angela E. Soper

“Vision. It’s a simple word with huge connotations in the business world. Surely for anyone who has awakened in the middle of the night with a new business idea glowing like a 100-watt bulb in her head, the vision is sparkling clear, illuminating every fiber in her body. Most of us have had such “visionary” moments in our lives. Maybe it wasn’t a new business idea but a new way to solve a problem or enhance your life or someone else’s: an abrupt awareness of that nagging reason you couldn’t  balance the checkbook, a sudden insight into why your teenager has been giving you nasty glares for three days, the perfect way to celebrate your parents’ wedding anniversary.

There’s no discounting such moments of blinding insight when it comes to proposing a new idea. And of course, there’s also plenty of room for those who start with a kernal of an idea, work laboriously and painstakingly to nurture it, and allow it to germinate fully before putting it into action. However it is reached and ultimately presented, a vision can be a critical component of creating sales and distribution strategies that move a business forward. In fact, it is often the foundation for many other aspects of a business that can play a role in promoting healthy sales and distribution: marketing, customer service, personnel issues, community outreach, public relations.

In a values-driven business, or socially responsible business, the vision is the torchbearer that leads his or her team proudly over the challenging terrain of business ups and downs. Occasionally this vision may alter its route, adjust for changes in the environment or climate, or even reconfigure the long-term strategy, but it will always maintain  a steady course toward the goal at hand. Vision is looking to the horizon and imagining what could be. Vision is daring to head toward the horizon with a true sense of purpose and a plan of action.”

Vision Strategy Number One:
Think about how your vision and product combined can improve your customers’ business or personal lives.

In order for your business and your vision to succeed, you must compel your customers. Don’t waste time cluttering your sales pitch with a complex explanation that weaves details of your socially responsible mission with the benefits of your product, you may confuse the buyer. Your message has to be easy to understand for the customer. Listening to the needs of your customers is critical. As Jeff Mendelsohn, founder of New Leaf Paper, states “Take off your save-the-world hat and put on the hat of whoever you’re selling to”.

Vision Strategy Number Two:
Align your vision with your communities interests.

Serve your community with your actions. If your vision has roots in benefiting your community, find ways to develop win-win situations that will improve your community while building stronger sales or distribution methods. This approach has been successful for companies like Hot Lips Pizza. Owners David Yudkin and his wife Jeana Edelman took their vision of wanting to create a better place for their children, like their immigrant parents had before them, to create a business model that looked upstream. David calls this approach “backcasting” a concept he adopted from Natural Step to build a model that complements his vision for a sustainable world.

Vision Strategy Number Three:
Be open to adjusting your vision as your business grows.

The evolution of your vision may be the most important factor in growing your sales over time. Jeffrey Hollender, founder and CEO of Seventh Generation and a SVN Hall of Fame Honoree, seized this opportunity as he saw the term ‘sustainability’ broaden in the early 2000′s with the wellness trend. He had to shift from engaging customers with the environmental benefits of his product, to also focusing on health and wellness issues. This evolution resulted in a 30 to 40 percent growth every year since 2000. Expanding your vision will open new growth opportunities that will have a positive impact on the stakeholders connected to your business and your sales. If you own an established company, its also important to remember that transforming your vision probably won’t happen over night. Let the changes you’re making be a symbol of what you are and plan to become.

Visionary Strategy Number Four:
Align every aspect of your business with your core values to help drive sales.

If you want growth and strong performance, no matter what your business’es size, keep your sales firmly anchored by the values you established when you began your business. If you’re not sure who you are or what values you stand by, then take the time to sort it out. Being clear about your values will give you the courage to say no to a sale when your integrity as a businessperson could be compromised. When Tom and Kate Chappell of Tom’s of Maine decided to sell their company to Colgate-Palmolive in 2006, their values-driven integrity was in question. Yet they were successful in becoming the leader in the U.S. natural hygiene products by working out an agreement that preserved their character, spirit and values as a company, and then communicated that message clearly with their customers.

For more on the Social Venture Network Book Series visit

Exerpts from: Values Sell: Transforming purpose into profit through creative sales and distribution strategies