Soft Skills in the Field Service Industry: CreativityBy My Service Depot on Friday, March 5, 2021
Though not traditionally associated with business or the field service industry, your company should value and cultivate creativity.
As we continue our deep dive into the soft skills you should look for and cultivate in the field service industry, we will talk about the creativity subset of soft skills. Often, people don’t normally think of creativity as a soft skill, preferring to think of the traditional definition, “the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” However, if you define creativity from a business standpoint, we can say that creativity is “the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems and communicating with others.” This definition clearly positions creativity as one of the most important soft skill subsets.
The facets of creativity that we will discuss today are innovation, open mindedness, learning from others, and experimentation. These skills all go hand in hand. For the people who may not excel at these, we will go over some tips and tricks on how you can get yourself or your staff to start improving these characteristics.
Innovation involves making changes to something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. Innovation does not have to be an uphill battle. A team that constantly looks for ways to improve their process and products can easily gain the upper hand and stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Innovation must be an all-hands-on-deck mindset for everyone in the company, from the owner all the way down to the newest employee.
Employees that receive encouragement to talk about their ideas will often share them. When you have employees who keep an eye out for ways to improve something, ideas will start to flow more naturally and freely. If your company does not value innovation, employees become less likely to share observations or ideas on how to improve the overall product or process. This will inevitably lead to processes or products that are not fully polished or optimized.
More often than not, people do not consider themselves innovative. However, one can become more innovative by simply asking the question “can I make this better?” Even if the answer is “no,” as time passes you might develop a different perspective on some things, turning that “no” into a “yes.”
An open mind does not come easily to everyone, yet this trait can have an impact on a day beyond what most people realize. Open-mindedness can be defined as “being open to new ideas, experiences, theories, people, and ways of living.” It means adopting a fair and respectful attitude towards opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own. For some people, that can be difficult. As we have established, many people have a hard time changing their opinions on topics and people. The biggest advantage to keeping an open mind is the ability to “go with the flow.” This allows for adaptation when something new happens at work or in your home life.
Many unexpected things can impact your day, but remaining open minded ensures that you have the best day possible. Let’s look at a common scenario in the workplace; your boss announces that a new process will begin. Those with an open mind can look at the announcement and how it will help the company. The person without an open mind will generally go straight to pushing back against what they do not like or understand. When you work for a company, you should always keep the mindset, “what is good for the company is good for me.” Even if a new process disrupts your routine in the short term, if it leads to more business, you’ll ultimately participate in the spoils.
What else can you do to help yourself while you travel down the path to open mindedness? Try these suggestions:
- Do not react in anger when others have different opinions. Instead, ask questions and start a conversation to help put yourself in their shoes. You never know what someone else may be going through.
- Get out of your comfort zone. People do not grow as fast if they do not expand their horizons. Sometimes that can be as simple as trying a new food or even taking a different route to work.
- Ask questions! This is basically the same step as number one. Learn more about others or the issue at hand.
Those three simple practices can help you avoid reacting with a closed mind and help you grow as a person.
Learning From Others
Many people think they can easily learn from others, but in reality, they sometimes stop at simply communicating with others. Let’s use a new hire at an HVAC company to illustrate this point. The company hired Jessica as a technician manager. She will spend 50% of her time in the field with her technicians and 50% in the office with other staff. Not only does Jessica have to learn the technician process, but she also has to learn the office procedures. Upon starting, Jessica clearly has much to learn about her new company and starts to shadow people to get up to speed with the processes in place. Fast forward to two weeks later; Jessica is still struggling with a few things around the office. This does not mean that Jessica cannot learn from others, it just means that she has a lot of information to absorb and the process will take time.
Now, on the other hand, we have Ashley over at a shredding company. Ashley works in the same role, with the same 50/50 split of time between the office and field. While in the training phase, Ashley keeps putting items in the shredder that should not go there, and after getting told 3-4 times in the field about this, it becomes clear that Ashley is not listening to these instructions and performs this behavior purely because she wants to. Back in the office, she exhibits the same inability to follow instructions. At this point, we should be concerned because Ashley is starting to become a liability.
You may be asking yourself how Ashley can improve her ability to learn from others. The easiest thing here is to go into things with an open mind. By going in with an open mind, you can start to learn the data or process that expected of you. There is also a critical final step to learning from others; make sure that you review the process after having implemented it from another person. There may be some room for improvement!
When people think of experimentation, they usually think about test tubes and the science field, but this idea can apply to all businesses. Let’s define experimentation as “the action or process of trying out new ideas, methods, or activities.” You can easily see how learning from others and experimentation go hand in hand. Just because you were taught how to do something one way does not mean that it’s the only way to do it. Depending on the company, you have a chance to help improve the processes that people use in their daily workflow.
Not every experiment will succeed. Some will not provide the results you desire. Sometimes changes add too many steps or too much time. Sometimes you may encounter too much push back from other employees. When discussing suggested changes, ask followup questions when you receive resistance. People may have valid concerns and may have real reasons for resisting change that you didn’t think about. The more information and data that you can supply, the better you will come across and the stronger a case you can make for new changes.
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