FOREST SERVICE EASTERN REGION MARCH 2007
CREATIVITY, THE TIME IS NOW
Finding creativity and ideas is a challenge that we all face. We need new ideas, new thinking and creativity. New ideas are about inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking a few rules, and making mistakes. Are we about new ideas or against new ideas? According to Bob Nelson, author of the book, “1001 Ways to Reward Employees” and motivational speaker, the average American worker makes 1.1 suggestions per year. While we are in the forefront in natural resource management, idea development does not seem to have much of a priority. What is the rate in the Forest Service? Hopefully, we would want more than 1.1 suggestions from our employees in a year. While we are faced with many new initiatives, much of them are driven from the top as a result of reduced budgets, creativity and innovation don’t appear to be high on the radar screen.
Last month, we talked about creating a Chief Idea Person on your unit. This does not have to be a new job or even a full time job, but someone who has an interest in creativity and has a passion for new thinking and change.
If you are able to do this, the next step would be an overall innovation assessment of your unit. Here are some questions for you to consider as you get started down the path of creativity and innovation.
- What is the vision or mission of your organization? Of course we all know what that is in the Forest Service, “Caring for the Land and Serving People.”
- What strengths can we improve or maintain through creativity and innovation?
- What weaknesses can we overcome or avoid through creativity and innovation?
- What activities or processes could benefit most from innovation?
- What staffs/units could benefit most from creativity and innovation?
- What individuals could benefit most from creativity and innovation?
- What unique features can we create in the Forest Service through innovation?
- What are the competitive advantages of innovation?
- What important trends are occurring that can be exploited with innovation?
- What are short term opportunities in the Forest Service?
- What obstacles will keep you from achieving innovation goals?
Next answer the following questions, yes or no!
- Our organization has a system of innovation.
- Our organization has a process for measuring the return on innovation.
- Our organization has a Chief Idea Person or someone who acts in that manner.
- Everyone in our organization understands and is committed to innovation.
- We have specific goals for return on innovation.
- All employees are encouraged to think.
- Our organization has a reward system for innovation.
- Management and support staff are trained in strategic thinking.
- We have a network fostering new ideas.
- Resources are made available to support the development of new ideas.
- All employees understand the mission, philosophy and goals of the organization.
- From time to time, we spend time thinking about priorities.
- Thinking activities are incorporated into job descriptions.
- We have a system for quickly evaluating innovative ideas.
- We have a system for gathering information and feedback from all parts of our organization including customers.
The biggest challenge that we face, is how we turn ideas into action. People are inspired with ideas, but how do we turn them lose? How do we ensure that their ideas are considered? Idea programs don’t fail for the lack of ideas, the biggest stumbling block in any organization is the cultural and process issue. Without adequate preparation and management support, you will not be able to create a successful idea program.
Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people
how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t
really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after
a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve
had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do
that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought
more about their experiences than other people.
ManagementFirst, “Bill Guns: Innovation Best Practices,” February 2007 (www.managementfirst.com).
Training Magazine, “Collective Brain Power,” Julia Chang, January 25, 2007 (www.trainingmag.com).
Mt. Shasta News, “Finding Your Creativity,” Linda Wallace, January 24, 2007 (www.mtshastanews.com).
Management Issues, Creative Interest,” Edward DeBono, Thought Leader, January 24, 2007 (www.managementissues.com).
Leadership Excellence, “Management Innovation It Delivers The Greatest Returns” Gary Hamel, December 2006 (www.eep.com).
Let Go to Grow, Linda S. Sanford, Pearson Education, Upper Saddle River, NJ 2006
Most people search high and wide for the keys to success.
If they only knew, the key to their dreams lies within.
George Washington Carver
Have you ever been busy with an everyday task, cleaning out the bathtub for instance, and suddenly the answer to a problem you have been mulling over for weeks comes to you in a flash? If you have, then you have experienced the classic “aha” moment, which is part of the creativity process. It seems like the answer descends upon a person from nowhere and that he or she was “just lucky” to come up with such a great idea. However, looking at creativity this way is to overlook what led up to that aha moment—which is usually immersion in a problem. The way creativity generally works is that someone wrestles with a problem (sometimes for years) and looks at it from every conceivable angle, yet still the person does not come up with new and creative ideas to solve the problem. So there is a period of intense focus on the matter at hand.
The reason so many “geniuses” are struck by their great ideas when they are performing mundane activities is because they have first wrestled with the problem, and then become immersed in another matter and have “forgotten” about the problem. But what is really happening is that the problem is being worked out in the subconscious. Great insights usually come to people when they are relaxed and not working on the problem consciously anymore. And that is what people generally call creativity—the moment when you get a great idea, the flash of insight that is often referred to as genius. However, people who are generally referred to as “creative” also take the process further and act on their ideas.
Here is the general scheme to creative problem solving:
- Wrestle with the problem. Look at your problem from every possible angle.
- Forget about it for a while. Move on to some other project or focus. Go for a swim, a run or cook big dinner. Don’t focus on problem solving.
- Give the problem time to develop in your subconscious. Trust that you will come up with an answer.
- When your idea comes…act on it.
Creativity and Innovation Day
Admit it you are Creative. Creativity and Innovation Day is a global celebration of our ability to generate new ideas, use imagination and make new decisions in every sphere of life. Each year on April 21st we remind ourselves and encourage others to solve new challenges in rewarding ways by holding Creativity and Innovation Day events and activities in over 50 countries. Join in! The first Creativity and Innovation Day celebration occurred in 2002 with 1,000 people participating. More than 5,000 people were in involved in 2004 including schools, universities, businesses, communities, and individual families. More and more people are finding ways to honor their restlessness for improvements in positive ways and choosing to announce this with pride and celebrate creative and innovative energies annually. The idea sprang from a group of people in Canada and is peacefully spanning the globe. What about a Creativity Day on your Forest in 2007!
Should You Hire Only Grumpy Workers
An article in the Houston Chronicle reports new research from Rice University suggests grumpy workers are the most creative problem solvers. Happy, contented workers won’t question the status quo as much as workers who are grumpy. While abstract problem solving skills may be higher in happy workers, as traditionally believed, the Rice study claims that this is not representative of the work place. Happy workers won’t search out problems to solve. Grumpy workers will. And grumpy workers will dig down into the details to find a solution. Of course, this does not mean you want only workers who are grumpy all the time any more than you want workers who are always happy. Variations in mood indicate someone in touch with life. It does mean managers need to create a company culture that allows the occasional outburst of grumpiness so that problems, and solutions, can be found.
January 17, 2007
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
Thanks for your complimentary newsletter on creativity. It is much appreciated. I have been reading them for a couple of years now, and I am finding them filled with great ideas and suggestions. Can you offer any future thoughts on how we can have managers and supervisors to consider our suggestions? Thank-you!
Good articles! I have learned a lot from your articles. I have a comment regarding the lack of acceptance of new ideas. People love working in organizations where they can make a contribution; where their ideas are heard. If managers and supervisor don’t ask employees for their opinions, I find it to be a symptom of greater problems in the organization. Employees, who are afforded the opportunity to contribute, will find ways to help. They become passionate and positive. Employees become agents of change. Keep us on our toes!
Creativity and innovation is on the mind of many executives and managers these days. They are looking at streamlining processes and reducing costs. At Dave Dufour’s website he has created an online idea generation tool called Watizit to help individuals spur creative thinking. He also developed a list of 50 phrases that kill creativity. If your hungry for new idea tools, check out Dave’s website at http://www.du4.com/dave/creativity.asp.
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….