FOREST SERVICE EASTERN REGION April 2007
CREATIVITY, WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN
Everyone has talent and ideas. You have knowledge that you can share. Your creativity is part of your everyday life. It’s the music you listen to, the books that you read, the conversation you have with your coworkers and family. It’s your special uniqueness. It’s your enthusiasm, spirit and energy. It’s that bolt of lightening! We need to capture your creativity in the Forest Service. We need those ideas in the Forest Service. You may not agree with this philosophy but think about it, if we only captured one idea from every employee, each year, we would have 32,000 new ideas. How many of these ideas could improve the way we think and work? You can truly make the difference. Within each of us is the capacity to change the Forest Service for the better, to make a difference. You can use your ideas to make a difference in the Forest Service. You can affect the future of the Forest Service in a positive way.
For the past two months, we have focused on the need to build and create an innovative organization. We focused on the need for a Chief Idea person and doing an innovation assessment. The next step is to sustain your efforts. Creativity and ideas is the fuel that helps you. An innovation team can help you deliver some positive results. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
- Choose team members that are compatible. They should work together by focusing on results rather than personalities.
- Choose people you know are capable of making things happen. Innovation is about results, not about activities.
- Choose people who are friendly, open, positive and who donít take themselves too seriously. Innovation is hard work, but it should also be fun.
- Choose people who are self-starters. Innovation requires people to be active participants in the process.
- Choose people who have the skills needed to achieve the stated goals. Innovation needs ability as well as effort.
Include the champion of the innovative idea. The person who came up with the big idea should share in the responsibility for developing it.
Here are five suggestive ground rules for your Innovation Team:
- We understand the reasons for working together and agree to focus on issues and not personalities.
- We acknowledge that the skills and experiences of each member are critical to the success of the team as a whole.
- We recognize that any member is capable of having good ideas and information.
- We believe that success results from our collective efforts and that by working together we can create a better outcome than by working in isolation.
- We accept responsibility for our work and are willing to be held accountable for our results.
The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.
Entrepreneur,“5 Big Biz Think Tank Techniques,” Chris Penttila, March 2007 (www.entrepreneur.com).
Leadership Wired, “The Leadership Economy,” Dr. John C. Maxwell, February 28, 2007 (www.maximumimpact.com).
ManageSmarter, “Steering Clear of an Innovation Shipwreck,” Michael Megalli, February 22, 2007 (www.salesandmarketing.com).
Workforce Week, “IDEO: The Innovation Factory,” Janet Wiscombe, February 11, 2007 (www.workforce.com).
Management Today, “The Innovation Thing,” Cameron Cooper, January-February 2007 (www.aim.com.au).
Mavericks At Work, Why The Most Original Minds In Business Win, William C. Taylor & Polly LaBarre, Harper Collins, New York, NY 2006.
Never before in history has innovation offered promise
of so much to so many in so short a time.
Nurturing Creativity at Work
Good managers know that creativity is essential for the health and prosperity of the organizations they work for. And therefore, good managers also know that their single most important job is to nurture creativity in those who report to them.
There are three keys to nurturing creativity:
- Always acknowledge the importance of those who report to you and their contributions. All people crave recognition and approval, and it’s a manager’s job to make sure that workers get this. Leaders are responsible for the morale of their organizations.
- Solicit the opinions of everyone in your organization. Include everyone in your meeting, from senior members of your team to the lowest level of your organization. Take their suggestions and input seriously. You might be surprised who comes up with the best ideas.
- Allow for completely open communication. Don’t prohibit discussion of certain topics and don’t shoot down ideas that seem silly or inappropriate. And don’t ignore input that you might view as a negative attitude. If an employee tells you that there is something going on that you didn’t know about, don’t ignore the problem and don’t write the employee off as being a whiner. Oftentimes it’s these kinds of conversations that plumb the well of creativity and can get everyone working toward the right goals. Even a bad idea can get people thinking and coming up with good ideas that ricochet off the original idea.
Remember, good managers foster creativity, they don’t squash it to feed their own egos. And they don’t ignore input—no matter where it comes from.
TV Series on Innovation
This past month on the cable network CNBC premiered a five part weekly series on “The Business of Innovation.” The first installment was largely a discussion with experts debating various definitions of innovation and then differing on methods for achieving success. Profiles of companies and CEOs ranged from the expected 'let's be like Google' to a warmed-over recap of why influential top executives may turn out to be evil (Bernie Ebbers, Dennis Kozlowski) even when they're transforming a company. The innovation buzz appears to be getting louder and louder as many companies have declared themselves to be "innovative." You can learn more about their program at http://innovation.cnbc.com/.
Permission to Laugh
A little levity does a world of good in workplace. In fact, it can enhance employee creativity and increase your productivity. John Baldoni recently suggested the following to help leaders lighten things up. (1) Laugh at yourself. Managers need to set the tone for levity. The first place to start is by looking in the mirror. “Inconsistency with ourselves,” wrote Joseph Addison, “is the greatest weakness of human nature.” It’s also a wonderful opening for humor. (2) Post a joke of the week. My wife, a senior manager for a university health care concern, puts a cartoon on the agenda page of her weekly meetings. Her colleagues love it, and actually look forward to seeing the next cartoon. It is one way to encourage attendance at important meetings. (3) Look on the light side. Failure may be the best teacher, but sometimes the lessons sure do hurt. That’s where a little levity can come in handy. Good sales managers are adept at this. For example, if their team misses a quota, they might say something like, “We fell a bit short this month. If we fall any shorter, we won’t have anywhere to look but up.” Quips like that don’t dismiss the issue; they are salves for bruised egos. And they have a dual effect: One, they raise the shortcoming; two, they allow people to move forward without dwelling too much on the past. Relief pitchers in baseball are of the same mindset; a pitch given up for a homerun might be described as a pitch that didn’t quite go where I wanted it to go. Case closed. Let’s move on. Some things should not be made light of in the workplace—a person’s faith, race, sex, ethnicity or sexual preference. Jokes on these issues may provoke hurt or cause harm. When in doubt, keep your mouth shut. But in the meantime, no matter where you work—be it for a go-go new company like Google or a century-old behemoth like General Motors, there is plenty in the workplace to laugh at. Every workplace has its foibles. After all, as author/comedian Steve Allen once quipped, “Nothing is better than the unintended humor of reality.” Check out the latest Dilbert cartoon. And why not? Each workplace has one thing in common: It is designed, operated and occasionally misrun by human beings. And if you don’t find that funny, well, then maybe you need to take a long vacation.
March 6, 2007
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and sharing these uplifting articles on creativity. It is nice to see that we have some people in the Forest Service giving us this lift. I like many of your recommendations and agree with you for the need to engage our leaders in this effort. We must work harder to weave creativity practices into the fabric of the Forest Service.
Great ideas! It’s good to read that creativity and innovation is needed in the Forest Service. We still do not get the change of thinking that’s necessary for creativity to work. This can be fun and doesn’t have to become part of the bureaucracy. But if we want the organization to seek out ideas, maybe we need to refocus some energy on more development and training in this area. We need a culture in the Forest Service that celebrates creativity and innovation.
Looking for ideas? Harvard Business School Publishing is offering a free biweekly audio show featuring breakthrough management ideas and commentary from the authors and editors of Harvard Business School Publishing. These podcasts are approximately 20 minutes and feature the leading thinkers in management and offers people new ideas in management and organizations. You can find these podcasts at www.HBRIdeaCast.org.
If you are interested in learning more about creativity or wish to share any experiences, please contact Karl Mettke at email@example.com.
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….