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Creative ideas are what turn ordinary companies into market leaders. These companies see the end result first and then build a path to achieve those results.

A safety zone needs to be established. Often, failure is punished but success is not rewarded. We must remember that failure is the second cousin to success. We learn from our mistakes.

Creativity and innovation are key elements that propel businesses to the top. Without either, your company comes in second at best, and no one remembers No. 2. While being No. 1 certainly doesn't guarantee continued success, it is definitely better than being forgotten.

Here are some ways to keep your company at the top:

* Foster a business climate that's open to innovation and creativity. Innovation is the ability to come up with ideas and solutions to pressing problems. It is the process of producing something that has value and did not exist before. Creativity is the ability to take that new idea and make it valuable in your customers' eyes. Realize that every problem has a solution, although the solution may not be in plain sight.

* Become No. 1 with your clients. The more satisfied your clients are, the more business you'll have in the future. Realize that the only commodity your clients know is you. Since you are the catalyst providing the solution to their problem, you are accountable for fulfilling their needs. As a result, you need to invest time in keeping the channels of communication open.

* Create a partnership with clients. Clients recognize partnerships when the companies they work with function as problem solvers. Remember, value is something you produce by the acceptance clients place on what you do for them.

* Create a partnership with employees. Asking people to be creative and then shooting down their ideas creates a rift in your organization. Instead, show people that bringing their imagination on the journey is welcome. Information wealth flows directly from innovation, not optimization.

* Implement next-generation approaches. Replacing "rules" with "roles" will free your employees from the "we have always done it this way" syndrome. The secret is not knowing the formula; it is applying information in a way that works for your employees and benefits your clients. James Feldman is a motivational speaker and business consultant.

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