Karyn Ross is an author, speaker, consultant and trainer from Illinois, USA, who helps organizations progress, grow and achieve expansion both immediately and in the long term.
In addition to consulting companies, she runs the humanitarian organization “The Love and Kindness” and is the author of the book “How to Coach for Creativity and Service Excellence: A Lean Coaching Workbook” and a co-author of Shingo-awarded “The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: Lean Transformation in Service Organizations”.
As an artist with a master degree in sculpting, she points out the importance of creativity in business. That was one of the topics of our conversation during her stay in Belgrade on the occasion of the participation in the Quality as Concept conference held on October 4, in Belgrade, organized by Portal Kvalitet.
In her interview for our portal, Karyn tells us how she started her business at 42, how she founded the company, traveled half the world and how creativity helped her do that.
eKapija: You have founded Karyn Ross Consulting, which is based on LEAN principles. Can you tell us more about that?
– That word primarily describes Toyota’s production system and how cars are made efficiently. The way Toyota does it is with reduced consumption of time, energy and resources. We can now apply those principles, tools and practical examples, invented by Toyota, to various industries and business sectors.
Take a sports team as an example, where there are the players and a coach who directs them and trains them. If you want to get better, you need to exercise. He or she shows you the correct position of the arms, the legs, the correct way of moving, whether there are skills you need to work on more or not. If you applied this to business, where someone would train you, guide you, help you and point out the things you do well and those you don’t, doing business would be much different too, and there would be no problems. All these rules and principles from sports can be applied to business, so my role as a coach is to direct my clients.
eKapija: What are the principles that Toyota implements?
– There are many. The first is to always start with a purpose. Why are we doing this job of all? So we need to give a certain value to the customer, the client, but also to our company, as we often forget why we even started a job and what the purpose was.
The second thing is that we need to see everything from the client’s angle, and the third is that there needs to be a flow to our operations. We often multitask, without any order, instead of doing one thing after another. For example, if we need to issue certain forms to our clients, trying to finish all ten at the same time, we make a mistake, as the first client, who filed the request for a document right away now waits for too long, and why should they? Instead, we can save precious time for our client and ourselves and issue it to the client right after we finish.
I’m not sure how things are in Serbia at the moment, but, in the USA, if I want to order a product through Amazon, I know when it will arrive, at what hour and where the package is at any moment. All companies are now expected to provide that kind of service quality and speed.
eKapija: In your experience, what are the most common problems in the development and the functioning of a company or an organization?
– Whether it’s hotels, restaurants or IT companies, employees are often so self-oriented that they sometimes forget about clients, who have great expectations from them nowadays in terms of the quality and the speed of the service, as well as relatively affordable prices.
The first thing we need to do is see what our customers want and what interests them now, but also in the future, and then to see what we can do for ourselves as a company, because, if there are no clients, there’s no company either.
eKapija: What is the role of creativity in that process?
– Generally, when I come to a company, I first talk to directors and managers and we try to see where the problem is and what keeps them from progressing. That’s where creativity comes in, in order for us to come up with a different way of doing a job, because, when you have an idea, what follows is the realization of that idea.
eKapija: Many people say that they’re not creative, that creativity is like a talent, where you either have it or not. Can creativity then be exercised?
– All people are creative, we’re all born with it. All children like to draw, write, or play and they have plenty of ideas. If you give them a gift in a box, they don’t care as much for the gift itself as for the box and the wrapping. For them, it can be just a box, but it can also be a space ship. As we grow up, we learn to follow more and more rules and we believe that we are not creative, that our ideas are stupid and that creativity is for artists only, but it’s not. We therefore need to rediscover ourselves.
eKapija: How can we then exercise our creativity and how often?
– Each day, for 15 minutes, you can do something you don’t normally do. Even if you’re just drawing on paper, it’s enough for your brain to develop. You can play with children and accept their imaginary worlds. Don’t hold them back, as you also develop through this process.
eKapija: How hard is it to change our habits and patterns of behavior which slow down our progress and professional development?
– It’s hard, because the most difficult thing to change is ourselves. That’s why we need coaches, just like in sports. We are often not even aware of what are actions and habits are, but if there’s someone who can point it out, it’s easier. A coach is a big factor there.
eKapija: How much time needs to pass before we see the first results?
– It depends, but results are often there very quickly. It often happens that I agree everything with the directors and managers and say that I’ll visit in a month to see what’s changed. However, it then turns out that there are no results. They are either too busy, they forget, or even lack courage to change something. But if you see your coach every day, trying something new, you will see some progress in two weeks.
After four to six weeks, when I go through the training period with my clients, I tell them that it’s their turn to help someone else. They often get scared and say “I can’t do it”, but it is in fact all simple – if you can do it, someone else can too. It’s important to try. If it produces results, stick with it, if not, change it.
eKapija: Perfectionism seems to be the norm today, which often makes people frustrated. How does one handle all the demands from friends, parents, directors – the society?
– I like this question, because being perfect or working perfectly is impossible. We should always try different things, without concerning ourselves whether it’s perfect. We are all human, we make mistakes and it part of our nature. But, we should learn from our mistakes. We need to keep trying and trying and trying... working on ourselves and our self-confidence.
eKapija: What have you learned about people and their fears and dilemmas?
– People always say what they can’t do. Famous industrialist Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.” We spend our time citing reasons why we can’t do something or why an idea of ours will not work.
We need to stop saying “I can’t”. When I talk to people, they tell me “but I don’t know how to do it”, and when I ask them if they’ve ever tried, in 80% of the cases the answer is no.
Coaches can help here to. My job is to encourage and incite people to new activities. When you’re doing something new, you often take a friend along with you in order to have someone as support. A coach can be there for you, helping you along your new path.
eKapija: What inspired you to start doing this job?
– My father was a professor and I saw how important it is to have someone transfer knowledge to you. I realized that people needed help and that the goal is the same – a sports team wants to win the cup, businessmen want to win clients. I started practicing on my own and realized that the best way to do something is not to overthink it, but just go into it.
I didn’t work until I was 42. My husband was a professor at Harvard and I took care of the children. Once they grew up and went to university, I wanted to find something for myself and that’s how this started.
eKapija: As an artist, how do you overcome moments of low inspiration and creativity?
– I try something new. Each day I write, draw... Sometimes I sit down and make a list of house chores I could do. As I also run a humanitarian organization, where I’m not too familiar with the administration, I google how to carry out and complete certain procedures. This means that I’m learning all the time, trying to set new challenges for myself.