You need creativity more than you think
In our last post we looked at two important concepts: the New Economy and Talentism. Both of them have a lot to do with Creativity, which is as we’ll see “a catalyst for” and “a result of” innovation.
With every advancement, technology has reached into almost all areas of life, starting from communication, to cooking and driving. And as we’re well accustomed, iterations of each product amplify the pressure over the consumer to comprehend all its new features and how to use them. We’re bombarded with so many new things that reach out into our brain for our attention as well as our capacity to learn and adapt. Such complexity is what pushes us to transition towards new technologies and the realities that ensue (i.e. 3D printing, hyper-connectedness, robotics and automation, the new paradigms of work). The paradox is how the same innovators strive to showcase all of these complexities in a light of simplicity and thus alleviate any resistance, enhance the product’s market acceptance and rate of adoption.
Thus, creativity acts as a catalyst for innovation through its sheer usefulness in the problem-solving process (i.e. answering a need in the market). Simultaneously, it succeeds innovation by demystifying new technologies for their intended audience.
This is why organizations that want to stay on top of their game in the New Economy need to breathe creativity. But how does that relate to Talent(ism)?
What drives creativity?
Access to resources – take for instance artists that have created art as they had access to various tools, materials, fine wood, paint, silver, gold, etc. The same principle applies today when you consider easy access to information, software, hardware, knowledge, training, and continuous education. How would high-end engineers be capable to innovate without a proper workbench, laboratory and state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips? How do you expect your teams to improve your business processes without the proper understanding of the principles of quality management methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean?
Thinking outside the box or allowing yourself to be disrupted from your standard line of thought – we all like status quo, who doesn’t? It’s comfortable and cozy. If we want to create, we should put ourselves out there where we’re being challenged to think differently. Read books that are out of your usual knowledge areas, take on projects that just seem like you’re taking a big leap of faith and work towards shortening the gap of knowledge/experience, meet with people that do things differently or are labeled as outliers in your industry and learn from them what it takes to go through uncharted paths, or in two words: Be curious!
An environment that encourages ideas out of the ordinary and idiosyncrasies – this asks for high tolerance to failure and a quasi-safety net (note: not risk aversion) in the form of preventive actions for new and unconventional initiatives. Nowadays, especially with the tech startup scene the later seems to be rarer (to my surprise) since all of the great innovations had strong prior planning. What would change your organization, product, service or whatever you’re involved in by a few orders of magnitude?
Exposure to as many interactions in the work environment as possible (open to listening, helping, being empathetic) is quintessential to creativity. The advantage of collaborative teams, spaces, organizations is by far their diversity giving way to creative problem-solving. This is also an indication for organizations to focus on socio-cultural diversity that enables divergent thoughts and decision processes. Take the classic example of coffee shops – why are they such a great place to come up with ideas? They encourage bohemian interaction and collaboration, as well as the allure of frugal creativity. Basically, it gives anyone the liberty to dream at no additional cost – everything is possible! Are our organizations creating this kind of environments?
The pivotal factor
Beyond a much longer list of drivers for creativity, people have a critical role, and especially decision makers in organizations who need to be responsible for facilitating creativity. Although the traditional model of a boss-run organization is extremely spread, it has become clear that it’s not a sustainable one. And seriously, who wants to rely on just one person to grow and develop an organization? It’s about time that leaders and managers would stand behind their teams encouraging them to think for themselves and to switch from an employee mindset towards an owner mindset. A reversed model of tapping into everyone’s talent, skills and experience so as to stir a sense of ownership for breakthrough ideas and initiatives, taking them from “aha” moments, to debates, to chiseled project plans, and down to bottom line impact.
- Leaders educating their organizations about the cause-effect relationship between creativity and financial bottom line using concrete examples, and how that can contribute to their own well-being. Leaders and key decision makers need to realize that growing profits without a direct benefit to those who drive them isn’t sustainable (Dare I say: it’s even destructive?).
- An informal team commitment to personal development, while members hold each other accountable (i.e. reading books, listening to podcasts). Same as organizations, people need to “upgrade” themselves and to continuously learn. Does it help the organization? Probably it does, but in the end, it’s an investment in themselves, which they take further wherever they go (Disclaimer: I’m not saying that people should not stay with your organization forever)
- An informal coaching environment in which people will teach one another using a quasi-structure of information and knowledge, starting from their own expertise. This process may appear to be simple – it’s not. It puts people in a position in which they need to find the best means to transfer their knowledge onto others who might not interact with it on a regular basis. And it boils down to one question: how do you take your knowledge and reduce it down to an essence that your teammates can gather in max 30 minutes?
I’m convinced that this post just scratches the surface about the subject of creativity, and you’re encouraged to contribute with your own experience, observations and questions.