FOREST SERVICE EASTERN REGION FEBRUARY 2007
CREATIVITY, UNLEASHING THE POSSIBILITIES
Creativity, sure it’s risky and it’s not for everyone. The ability to think creatively is an essential skill for everyone. We need a lot of new ideas from everyone. Don’t be so quick to dismiss those wacky ideas. Today’s wild idea may be tomorrow’s best practice. At the end of the day, aren’t results what really matter? Wouldn’t it be nice to judge employees on the ideas that they contribute. This is the century of ideas. Last year at Toyota, employees submitted over 1,000,000 ideas. Over the past few years, over 200 books have been written on creativity and innovation. If the average book has 200 pages, that’s about 40,000 pages on creativity and innovation. That’s a lot of paper and trees. What’s message, the value of creativity and innovation in organizations.
What is your challenge? Most organizations are not designed to be creative or innovative. Just look at how the government operates. It is almost inhospitable to any new ideas. The government restricts new thinking because they want everyone’s behavior to be predictable and have normal routines. The government by its very nature does not have a work environment that encourages creativity and innovation. That is why regulations and rules are developed and manuals are created. It is hard to break out of our usual routines and patterns of behavior. That is why we don’t have many new ideas. That is why many managers and supervisors aren’t seeking new ideas. People are not encouraged to think out of the box. What has been done in your unit to capture the innate creativity of employees? How has the creativity of employees been stimulated? How many ideas have been submitted at your unit? Do you have a Chief Idea person on your unit? If not, maybe it’s time for you to consider it. Maybe it’s time to create a culture of innovation on your unit. Maybe it’s time to free your organization from the constraints that hamper creativity and innovation.
You can make the move to change your organization. One simple move is the creation of a Chief Idea person. This person would be responsible to the implementation, management and maintenance of an active system of innovation for your organization.
Here are some specific roles for this person…
Development and Implementation of an Innovation System
- Evoking ideas from all areas of the organization.
- Provide resources to develop ideas and concepts.
- Provide incentives for individuals and groups for innovation.
- Provide systematic and professional evaluation of ideas and concepts.
Direction of Innovation System
- Specific problem solving.
- Creating and exploiting opportunities.
- Enriching the work environment.
Evaluation of the Innovation Effort
- Return on Innovation (ROI).
- Impacting of problem solving activities.
- Economics of created opportunities.
- Improvements in the work environment.
- Number and quality of new ideas and projects.
Specific Skills Required
- Understanding of innovation, including concepts, practices and strategies; familiarity with innovation studies; and actual work experience on innovation projects.
- Experience in group dynamics, including meeting leadership, group discussion, listening and presentation skills.
- Familiarity with management systems, including systems design and project management.
- Training skills in creative thinking and innovation strategies, including course design and evaluation procedures.
- Ability to motivate others and take acceptable risks.
- Ability to work with people of various skill levels and backgrounds.
Some specific strategies to be consider…
- Creative thinking.
- Lateral thinking.
- Analytical thinking.
- Positive thinking.
- Conceptual blockbusting.
- Using humor.
I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when
I wake up every morning. Every day I find something
creative to do with my life.
US News & World Report, “This Man’s Bright Idea Is Tapping Into Others’ Notions,” Renuka Rayasam, Page 56, January 22, 2007 (www.usnews.com).
Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Innovation From The Many, Not Just The Few,” Chris Sheridan, January 27, 2007 (www.cleveland.com).
Gallup Management Journal, “The Four Drivers of Innovation,” Shelley Mika, January 11, 2007 (http://gmj.gallup.com/content/print/26068/The-Four-Drivers-of-Innovation.aspx).
The Point Leadership Development Review, “Are You A Thought Leader,” Kaye Thorne, January 9, 2007 (www.bluepointleadership.com).
Forbes, “The Suggestion Box 2.0,” Tara Weiss, December 12, 2006 (www.forbes.com).
Ideaspotting, How To Find Your Next Great Idea, Sam Harrison, HOW Books, Cincinnati, OH 2006
There are two ways of being creative. One can sing
and dance. Or one can create an environment in
which singers and dancers flourish.
Warren G. Bennis
An organization can be viewed as a collection of infrastructures. Soon a new type of infrastructure will be required: the innovation infrastructure or “innostructure.” Ron Fulbright of the University of South Carolina says an innostructure will consist of tools, services, procedures and corporate culture that foster an enterprise-wide commitment to innovative business practices like problem solving, brainstorming, alternative thinking, situation analysis, failure determination and most important creativity. Companies will change everything to foster these skills and to employ innovation in everyday business processes. Spending on innostructure will rapidly increase, Fulbright predicts, and the businesses of the future will look back on companies today and wonder how they ever got along without their innostructure…just as today’s organization looks back and wonders how it managed without its Information Technology infrastructure. Time pressure is speeding the innostructure. Just a few decades ago a company’s new innovation could put it several years ahead of the competition. By 1999, that lead time had shortened to several months. Globalization, communication technology, information technology, culture, social, and political forces are pushing us into the knowledge age, in which innovative lead time will be measured in mere weeks.
Corporate change expert Ken Olan says being comfortable in today’s business environment can be lethal. (See DEC, K-Mart, Eastern Airlines and the big three U.S. automakers). To avoid complacency, you should ask yourself the following questions: (1) What would my organization have to do, or to create, to put itself out of business? At the same time you’re developing new products or services, you should also be thinking about how to make them obsolete. (2) Who isn’t currently using my product or service that might change their mind under the right circumstances and how can I increase usage among existing customers? Think oatmeal, says Olan. Because some numbers of people are never going to want to eat oatmeal for breakfast, Quaker Oats also includes recipes for other ways to use oatmeal, like oatmeal cookies. (3) What can I create that is not available today, but that people would want if it were? Olan describes a friend who came up with a business plan to supply custom clear floor mats cut to fit for car enthusiasts who can’t stand to see their “baby” get dirty. ExactMats now does business with hundreds of dealerships across the countries who sell them to thousands of customers. (4) Who is our company or industry over-serving and how can we create something more appealing for those customers and increase profits at the same time? Southwest Airlines is a great example of this strategy…the big airlines were continuing to do things that travelers didn’t care about (“delicious” meals and back to front boarding), when really most people just want to get from point A to point B quickly, comfortably and cheaply. So…start asking questions and jumpstart innovation in your organization!
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
I enjoy Creativity Fringes and find useful information in every issue. Your enthusiasm, interest, and genuine desire to make a difference in the Forest Service are apparent with every issue. Your pearls of wisdom are refreshing. Thank you for sharing this.
The opportunities to free our thoughts and be more creative is needed everywhere. Thinking creatively has helped us find ways to deal with the many challenges we face in the Forest Service. I have used my creative abilities to challenge the status quo and suggest alternatives over the years, but not always good for the career. Our traditional ways of doing things do not always work. I appreciate your efforts to help everyone recognize the value of creativity.
The American Creativity Association, a nonprofit organization, acts as a forum for professionals seeking to explore and develop traditional and new ideas and technologies that promote creativity. You can learn more about the American Creativity Association at http://amcreativityassoc.org/index.php.
If you are interested in learning more about creativity or wish to share any experiences, please contact Karl Mettke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back issues of Creativity Fringes are posted at the Federal Consulting Group (http://www.fcg.gov/creativity_fringes.shtml). (Historical)
Thank You For Taking Time To Be Creative….