CREATIVITY, FUELING IDEAS
The power of ideas is ever so important today! To some, ideas are considered the new currency. Ideas are the future! A recent Business Week survey indicated that 72% of senior executives named innovation as one their top three priorities. How often do you ever reflect on how creativity and innovation helps provide a better world for us all? That is why it is so important for managers and supervisors to encourage people to think about creativity and its influence on the Forest Service.
Ideas are seeds from which all innovations and creative work grows. Think ideas! People have an inexhaustible capacity for generating ideas. Yet this ability is often taken for granted. We hardly notice the unlimited ideas that are generated every day, or how we value the ideas.
Ideas have helped shaped the Forest Service from its very beginning. Ideas are the resources on which our future success is dependent. Everything starts with an idea. That is why it’s important to have a work culture in which innovative ideas are encouraged and rewarded. Some organizations such as General Electric recognize the value of ideas and actually evaluate managers on traits such as “imagination and courage.”
But even with the slew of ideas, old habits die hard. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to dismiss ideas, particularly if they aren’t yours? For instance, kids have great ideas every day that we adults often downplay as impractical. Often, managers and supervisors play the same parental role with employees, dismissing ideas as not being practical or economical enough. They’re just used to coming up with ideas. They sometimes can’t admit that others have ideas that might work, too.
People at all levels of an organization must remember that anyone can have a great idea. Supervisor and mangers must remember that that they can’t be the only go-to person for ideas, because the organization will quickly run out of ideas and employee will not share them. Of course we can’t pursue every idea all the time, but we need to have crazy and impractical ideas with the good ones from employees. And the beauty of letting all people weigh in, ideas become better with time and changes. If you don’t accept any ideas, you won’t get any ideas. Ideas need to bubble up anywhere in the organization.
Don’t shut down people’s creativity. Remember someone has to make the courageous decision to accept an idea. That is why GE evaluates their managers on imagination and courage. That may be why Peter Drucker, the management guru, wrote these words: “Wherever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”
If you need an extra push for to inspire yourself and help you think of ideas, there’s nothing like a good motivational quote. Here is an assortment of quotes which advocate the do-it-now approach. Read these quotes, keeping an eye out for ones that speak directly to you. Write them down on some colorful post-it notes and place them in your office or cubicle for inspiration.
- If you aim at nothing, you’re sure to hit it. – Unknown
- Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. – William James
- Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford
- A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault with it. – Unknown
- If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. – Unknown
- Live life today! This is not a dress rehearsal. – Unknown
- It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about? – Henry David Thoreau
- You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt
- The really happy people are those who have broken the chains of procrastination, those who find satisfaction in doing the job at hand. They’re full of eagerness, zest, and productivity. You can be, too. – Norman Vincent Peale
Next comes the fun part. Make a list of your ideas. The ideas could be small or big. And most importantly don’t forget to share your ideas.
With proper training people can develop skills in questioning,
brainstorming, adapting, combining, analyzing and selecting
ideas. They can become the innovative engine your
American Management Association, “Sparking Innovation,” Mark Vickers, April 2006 (www.amanet.org).
Business Week, “Dawn Of The Idea Czar,” Jena McGregor and Amy Barrett, Pages 58-59, April 10, 2006 ( www.businessweek.com).
San Jose Mercury News, “Open Collaboration Spawns Innovation; Barriers Stifle It,” Scott McNealy, April 2, 2006 ( www.mercurynews.com).
Wall Street Journal, “Nurturing Innovation,” Joann S. Lublin, Pages B1 & B3, March 20, 2006 ( www.wsj.com).
Harvard Business Review, “Connect And Develop, Inside Procter & Gamble’s New Model For Innovation,” Larry Huston and Nabil Sakkab, Pages 58-66, March 2006 ( www.hbr.org).
Paper Airplane, A Lesson For Flying Outside The Box, Michael McMillan, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 2004.
It does you no good to start bringing in ideas
if a corporation can't digest them.
Mike Collins, CEO
Big Idea Group
You Can Do Anything But Not Everything
Your personal creativity can be affected in many ways, but this abbreviated article from Fast Company is something that we all face in today’s hectic world of work and can greatly affect your ability to generate new ideas and thinking.
You know the drill. It’s Monday morning. You arrive at work exhausted from a weekend spent entertaining the kids, paying bills, and running errands. You flick on your PC…and 70 new emails greet you. Your phone’s voicemail light is already blinking, and you before you can make it stop, another call comes in. With each ring, with each colleague who drops by your office uninvited, comes a new demand…for attention, for a reaction, for a decision, for your time. There’s no time to even drink your morning coffee. By noon, when you take 10 minutes to gulp down a sandwich at your desk while you’re checking e-mail, you already feel overworked, overcommitted and overwhelmed.
According David Allen, one of the world’s most influential thinkers on personal productivity, this is the “silent trauma” of knowledge workers everywhere. We inhabit a world, he says, in which there are “no edges to our jobs” and “no limit to the potential information that can help us do our jobs better.” What’s more, in a competitive environment that’s continually being reshaped by the Internet, we’re tempted to rebalance our work on a monthly, weekly, even hourly basis. Unchecked, warns Allen, this frantic approach is a recipe for dissatisfaction and despair…all-too-common emotions these days for far too many of us. Allen argues that the real challenge is not managing your time but maintaining your focus. “If you get too wrapped up in all of the stuff coming at you, you lose your ability to respond appropriately and effectively. Remember, you’re the one who creates speed, because you’re the one who allows stuff to enter your life.”
Coaxing Ideas Out Of Employees
In the book, “What’s The Big Idea” by Thomas Davenport and Laurence Prusak, have found that many US companies are geared up to compete in a new way…more innovative work rather than just slashing expenses. “One of the nice things about the re-engineering movement, before it got perverted into head cutting, was ‘let’s reorganize how we work.’ There is going to be a re-emergence of that kind of activity, getting employees to generate ideas and rewarding them,” Davenport says. But companies shouldn’t adopt the idea casually; they should give “idea generators” serious feedback and tangible rewards...beyond the trinket stage. Businesses should even promote and determine salaries on how intellectually useful employees are, he says. It can be helpful to understand and learn to recruit idea generators, who tend to focus on things, “besides moving up through the organization and receiving a better title and higher income,” according to the book. “They’re less interested in the official trappings of power, more interested in ideas. They’re motivated by intellectual ideas; by reading and thinking, occasionally writing about what they do,” Davenport says.
What’s The Big Idea
Yale University management Barry Nalebuff and law school professor Ian Ayres are trying to give new life to the old idea of developing ingenious solutions to ordinary problems. In their City-Wide Open Studios and their book “Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small” (www.whynot.net), they explain, “Until recently, the economy looked to technology as the engine for innovation. Many great ideas have been born there. But the emphasis on high-tech, bio-tech and the Internet has meant that ideas hatched everyday while ingenuity has been overlooked. Companies don’t know what to do with ideas. Middle management kills them. If companies would adopt technology inside to allow people to get their ideas heard throughout the organization, it’s a no-brainer.” One interesting example of “this democratization of ingenuity” focuses on auto insurance. Nalebuff and Ayres propose selling car insurance as an add-on to the price of gasoline, so that your payment for insurance is directly proportional to how much you drive, with built-in inducements away from gas-guzzlers. Economist Aaron Edlin calculates that if the per-mile fee reflected the incremental risk, driving would be cut back by about 7%, and there would be insurance savings of more than $8 billion per year.
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
Creating a twenty-first-century organization in the Forest Service is not so much a question of technology as it is of jobs and quality of work life. Facing the lost of jobs does not always result in more creativity. The Forest Service efforts to reinvent itself; therefore, requires educating all its employees about the new expectations in the nature of our work. To succeed, we must prepare our people. We must be a workplace that nurtures, attracts and holds the most creative and innovative people.
I believe that each of us have unique talents and abilities. Most people don’t realize that they have something to contribute to the success of the Forest Service. While some people may not agree, everyone contributes in their own way. I believe that creativity can help people connect their unique talents to the Forest Service. People need to find their own path.
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…