CREATIVITY, REALIZING YOUR POTENTIAL
Every organization including the Forest Service is looking to thrive in an ever increasingly competitive global market place that is desperate for innovation. Relying on yesterday’s ideas and solutions won’t solve your problems tomorrow. We need people willing to take initiative and use their creative talents and abilities. We need people to generate new ideas and solutions. We need people who are enthusiastic for new initiatives.
A manager at IBM made a recent prediction at a conference on innovation. In 5-10 years, “you can expect to see a very large number of manufacturers capable of doing world-class manufacturing and marketing.” That means, he says, these manufacturers have “conquered the quality issues, they’ve conquered the manufacturing issues, and they’re capable of marketing anywhere in the world.” Instead of being one of a select few of world class manufacturers, IBM will be one of many. Excellence is no longer enough. Companies need to go a step beyond excellence if they want to achieve true success. Today’s companies need to have greater imagination, seeing beyond the usual. What they need more than ever is creativity.
A company is only as good as its last good idea,” says Marsh Fisher, cofounder of Century21 Real Estate. Without an influx of great ideas, without creative thinking throughout the organization, companies don’t stand a chance.
So where will all the good ideas come from in the Forest Service? And how can you encourage creativity in the Forest Service?
Before you can think more creatively, you’ve got to banish old ways of thinking about creativity.
You can do that by debunking a few myths about creativity.
Creativity is rare. While creative expression may be rare, the capacity to be creative is universal. Most of us have far more creative potential than we realize.
Creativity is mysterious. In fact, researchers now understand some important aspects of the creative process. The process of being creative may feel mysterious because of the feelings of frustration and confusion that sometimes accompany creativity, but it needn’t be that way.
Only high IQ’s are creative. Of all the studies done on creativity, none has ever shown that high intelligence is necessary for creativity. There are plenty of successful artists, inventors, novelists and musicians with average smarts.
Creativity can’t be learned. The truth is, nearly everyone can learn to be more creative. The key is learning some simple skills, which can be mastered by doing some creativity exercises.
In a recent edition of the Phoenix Business Journal (April 10, 2006), creativity mentor, Debra Davenport offered these tips to help you and your staff become more creative.
- Empower your staff by encouraging ideas. Create an atmosphere that places high value and regard on cerebral contributions.
- Conduct spontaneous brainstorming and strategic planning sessions.
- Get weird! Run-of-mill creativity seminars will probably net little in the way of real results.
- Solicit ideas via open communications and minimal bureaucracy.
- Can the “We’ve always done it this way” mentality.
- And finally, find value in every idea…whether feasible or completely impractical.
Successful organizations will adopt the principles that innovation and creativity is the key to their future success. These organizations will use creativity techniques to generate ideas and solutions. These organizations will create a work environment that encourages out-of-the-box thinking and promote creativity and innovation. These organizations will use innovation to improve systems and processes. They will seek employees who are agile and skilled at adapting quickly and creatively to changing conditions. These organizations recognize that creative and innovative people are the key to their future success.
Using new approaches and skills are necessary as we enter the new millennium. These new skills will unleash the creative potential of everyone in the Forest Service.
A focus on cost-cutting and efficiency has helped many
organizations weather the downturn, but this approach
will ultimately render them obsolete. Only the constant
pursuit of innovation can ensure long-term success.
Daniel Muzyka, Sauder School of Business
Crain’s Chicago Business, “Why Is It So Hard For Large Companies To Innovate,” Samantha Stainburn, June 12, 2006 (www.chicagobusiness.com).
Leader Values, “How Can You Build An Innovative Culture,” Paul Sloane, May 2006 (www.leader-values.com).
Forbes, “Are You An Innovator,” Clayton Christensen,” May 24, 2006 (www.forbes.com).
Management Issues, “Gary Hamel: Management Innovation,” Des Dearlove, May 23, 2006 (www.management-issues.com).
Harvard Business Review, “Mapping Your Innovation Strategy,” Scott Anthony, Matt Eyring & Lib Gibson, Pages 104-113, May 2006 (www.hbr.org).
Innovation Training, Ruth Ann Hattori and Joyce Wycoff, ASTD Press, Alexandria, VA 2004.
Managing and innovation did not always fit comfortably together. That's
not surprising. Managers are people who like order. They like forecasts
to come out as planned. In fact, managers are often judged on how much
order they produce. Innovation, on the other hand, is often a disorderly
process. Many times, perhaps most times, innovation does not turn out
as planned. As a result, there is tension between managers and innovation.
Lewis Lehro, 3M
Ready, Set, Go
Many people suggest that creativity has four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination (light bulb) and implementation. Creativity doesn’t just happen, sometimes there’s a catalyst that generates the thought. It’s sort of like the flash of lightening, you can’t always predict when or where it occurs, but you see and hear them often during a thunderstorm. Shake up your routine by changing your schedule or taking a new route to work. Here are some suggestions for you to consider in stimulating your personal creativity.
- Visit a shopping mall.
- Visit a nature preserve or park.
- Stroll along the lakefront or river.
- Fearlessly ask dumb questions.
- Learn a new skill, such as web site development, acting or sculpting.
- Read something that you normally wouldn't.
- Rent a video you wouldn't normally watch.
- Play music and either dance or sing to it.
- Take a walk or get some other form of exercises.
- Change your work environment.
- Play a game or with some toys.
- Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes.
Slow Down If You Want Fresh Idea
Innovation is really hard, because it’s really hard to come up with fresh new ideas “when its owner is overworked, overtired, and stressed out,” says Anne Fisher of Fortune magazine; she quotes Wharton management professor Peter Capellis as saying: “The physiological effects of tiredness are well-known. You can turn a smart person into an idiot just by overworking him,” and author Tom DeMarco is urging that we all take a deep breathe and slow down: “Companies need to respect the time it takes to do strategic thinking. Task-oriented thinking is important too, of course. But bigger thinking is slow.” Another point made by Fisher comes from the late, great Peter Drucker, who noted: “All one can think and do in a short time is to think what one already knows and to do as one has always done. To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive needs to dispose of time in fairly large chunks. To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours.” Fisher points out that the ‘time cost’ of refocusing your attention between different topics may be only a few seconds with each switch, but says that researchers found that over time it reduces people’s total efficiency by 20% to 40%. She offers a little scientific Zen for you: “What scientists have only recently begun to realize is that people may do their best thinking when they are not concentrating on work at all. If you’ve ever had a great idea pop into your head while you were washing your car, walking your dog, or even napping, you already know what a team of Dutch psychologists revealed in February 2006 in the journal Science: “the unconscious mind is a terrific solver of complex problems when the conscious mind is busy elsewhere or, perhaps better yet, not overtaxed at all.” Keep this handy for when your boss asks you what you have been doing lately.
March 17, 2006
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch has these words of wisdom about leadership: it’s not about you…it’s about the people who work for you. “Your job is to walk around with a can of water in one hand and a can of fertilizer in the other hand. Think of your team as seeds and try to build a garden, it’s about building these people.” Stanford business school dean Robert Joss says, “The minute you move from being a task-oriented professional to being a manager of people, it stops being about your individual talents, your successes, and starts being all about coaching, motivating, teaching, supporting, removing roadblocks, and finding resources for your employees. Leadership is about celebrating their victories and rewarding them; helping them analyze when things don’t go to plan. Their successes become your successes. Their failures are yours too. Too many people think leading is exclusively about their own performance.” Of course, sometimes leaders have to “weed the garden,” as Welch puts it…the tough job of hiring and firing is an essential part of putting together an effective team. But in the end, one person, no matter how talented, can’t accomplish much without the help and support of others.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Stanford Business Magazine
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
I've been pondering, lately about many of your ideas and suggestions about creativity. It just seems hard at times to be creative. I think with the changes occurring in the Forest Service, many of us have seen enough creativity to last a life time. I’m assuming my thoughts are fairly wide spread. I think the people who think up all these ideas forget to ask others whether we think these organizational changes will be better. While the changes have been hard on all of us, I just can’t get excited too much about creativity when I see the results. I know the changes are supposed to be for the best, but who is really benefiting from this. I have yet to see improvements on my Ranger District. We are still eliminating jobs. Enough is enough.
It is important for supervisors/managers to realize how very powerful they really are in the work lives of their employees. With one word a supervisor can crush the aspirations and creativity of an employee, or make them never offer an idea again. Conversely a supervisor can elevate the hopes and dreams of an employee, empower them, and make them love their job. Many supervisors in the Forest Service don't realize that their actions and words make deep, lasting impressions, and can reach far into the future and beyond. It happened to me when I was very young and just starting my career in the Forest Service.
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…