If you are a huge corporate entity, you are responsible for all types of problems all the time. Often enough, if you don’t have a better solution, you can throw money at a problem to make it go away, for a while at least. This works, until your shareholders get fed up and demand some value for the capital they have entrusted to you. Or, until your market share shrinks to the point that you cannot divert revenues to spending, and no one will lend you the money you want to spend, because you are not a good risk to pay it back and you have no other plans for solving your problems. At that point, what you really need is a new idea.

If you are a smaller company, the problems you face have to be taken more seriously. Typically, you don’t have money to make them go away, because the money you have is tied up in assets or in obligations like payrolls, taxes, debt service, and dividends. The lights have to stay on, the creditors have to be paid, the investors have to be respected, and the responses to everyone have to be timely, and effective. Those are the minimum requirements, but they’re generally enough to keep an enterprise going – even for many years if the management remains responsible and clever.

Cleverness is an overlooked quality: we think of it as an individual trait, and of course it is that. In an organization it’s described as creativity or resourcefulness. It comes down to the same thing: the ability to find alternative solutions to problems, to address inefficiencies or inadequacies, or inabilities, in some way that has not been applied previously.

An equally important aspect of cleverness is the willingness to try the new approach once it’s been discovered, rather than relying on an older custom that may or may not work, or being content to do nothing because no one else has taken a comparable risk.

I’m not revealing anything new. This quality that has been praised so much and so well (typically, in retrospect) remains as welcome and necessary now as ever. But as valuable as cleverness is to an organization or an individual, it needs to be prompted. That is the value of an idea. An insight, a concept, a scheme, you may call it whatever seems appropriate, but the point is that something has to be established as an alternative in order to be embraced as a solution.