CREATIVITY, WHAT MOVES ORGANIZATIONS
Creativity is not a word that comes to mind when you think of government agencies. It is not always easy to see it or feel it. We must see things differently. Leadership is critical to any successful creativity initiative. Everyone recognizes the value of creativity. Business Week recently launched a new magazine focusing on innovation and creativity. It is key leadership characteristic for Senior Executive Service positions in the government. Yet, some people never hear their leaders discuss creativity or innovation. “Sometimes are leaders can’t even see the changes. Much of what’s changing simply can’t be seen from where you’re sitting,” writes Gary Hamel author of “Leading the Revolution.” “You have an obstructed view.” Hamel urges leaders to “search for new experiences, go to new places, learn new things, reach out to new people” in order to see things differently and unleash creativity.
Here are some ways to do that:
Keep asking why. The most important questions to fostering creativity are “why” and “what if.” These questions are at the heart of innovation.
Be prepared to look stupid. If you’re going to ask “why” and “what if,” you have to accept the fact that you may appear foolish from time to time. But never mind…there’s nothing more endearing than a leader who can laugh at his or her own follies.
Go to extremes. Choose a performance parameter…time, cost quality, speed or efficiency…and push it to the extreme, asking “why not.” When someone says you can have on A or B, search for novel solutions to disprove them.
Talk about new possibilities. Hold open-ended conversations that end with the hypotheses to be tested. “Profound insights come out of a cocktail of unexpected problems, novel experiences, random conversations, and newly discovered facts,” writes Hamel. The goal is to immerse yourself in this “cocktail” in order to produce bursts of creative insights.
These suggestions are not just applicable to leadership, but to anyone in any organization. However, leaders have the responsibility to jumpstart any creativity initiative in their organization. Creativity can represent the greatest opportunity for any organization and its hardest challenge. Leaders need to put their money where their mouth is and elevate creativity initiatives.
But if you look around your own organization and other government organizations, you will find many innovative and creative government programs. There are pockets of innovation and creativity everywhere. One of the big differences between the leaders of these organizations and the rest is the courage to put ideas into action.
I am always doing that which I can not do,
in order that I may learn how to do it.
Fortune, “The Imagination Economy,” Geoffrey Colvin, Page 53, July 10, 2006 (www.fortune.com).
Business Week, “How Failure Breeds Success,” Jena McGregor, Pages 42-52, July 10, 2006 (www.businessweek.com). http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_28/b3992001.htm?chan
Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, “The Accidental Innovator,” Sara Jane Gilbert, July 5, 2006 (www.hbswk.hbs.edu).
Articles Factory, “Personal Best Thinking: Develop Your Creativity For Maximum Success, Tom Northup, May 7, 2006 (www.articlesfactory.com).
MIT Sloan Management Review, “The 12 Different Ways For Companies To Innovate,” Mohanbir Sawhney, Robert C. Wolcott and Inigo Arroniz, Pages 75-81, Spring 2006 (www.sloanreview.mit.edu).
Dealing With Darwin, How Great Companies Innovate, Geoffrey A. Moore, Penguin Group, New York, NY 2005.
Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks,
breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun.
Mary Lou Cook
Sacred Rules For Fostering Creativity
Here are 10 scared rules for fostering creativity from Professor Leslie Owen Wilson, University of Wisconsin Stevens Point:
- Often creativity flourishes in places of safety and acceptance, and is born in an atmosphere of generosity, support, and nurturance.
- Creativity grows among friends and celebrations, and withers among enemies and confrontations.
- Creative ideas are often fragile -- like children creative ideas and people deserve protection.
- Creative successes are often preceded by failures -- for explorations, musings, daydreams, flights of fancy, trial and error are the natural companions of creativity.
- Creating is a distinctly human trait. Exploring and fulfilling one’s creative spirit is a sacred trust -- a potential given not just too selected individuals, but to all humans.
- Violating someone else’s creativity is an assault on the very essence of another’s inner being.
- Feedback on creative ideas and products should be supportive, and should build on strengths, never concentrate solely on weaknesses.
- Often born from internal or external chaos, dissonance, strife, or disequilibrium, creative production can be a way of creating order, dealing with anger or grief, or solving problems as individuals seek to regain balance.
- Being creative can be exhilarating, even addictive, and the creative spirit can be wonderfully contagious.
- If one wishes to observe, appreciate and encourage creativity in oneself and others, one must learn to be quiet and still, to listen, and to watch, and see with the heart as well as the eyes.
Peter’s Thoughts on Innovation
Tom Peters, whose reputation as a management guru took off in 1982 with the book “In Search of Excellence,” is now urging managers to build “innovation machines” and to develop a “portfolio of the weird.” Peters admits that R&D managers have to invest in the standard formula, but argues that 15% or so should go to interesting small projects that are truly radical, because he’s convinced that focusing on cost cutting and efficiency is no longer enough to keep pace with Asia. On the other hand, he’s confident that American businesses are capable of competing if companies continually reinvent themselves: “The only way we’re going to survive is to innovate our way out of the box. We’re down to one idea, which is innovation.” And he wants innovation that is big and bold, and points out: “I know it’s a counterintuitive point, but it is far easier to make big changes than it is to make small changes. Think about it. Nobody vaults out of bed at the thought of making tiny changes.”
Wisconsin Technology Network
March 29, 2006
Strategy guru Peter Hamel is currently focusing on “management innovation,” changing the way that businesses pull together resources, set priorities, build teams, nurture relationships and form partnerships to facilitate innovation. “If you look at a hundred-year period of industrial history, typically it is management innovation that has allowed organizations to reach new performance thresholds…more than any other kind of innovation. The challenge is instilling management innovation into organizations. Often, the technology you need to do new things is there long before you change the management processes in a way that allows you use that technology. Look at something like Open Source development. It made possible by communication technology, collaborative technology. The technology is available, yet, in many organizations it has done little to change the way power and information is distributed.” It takes an organization like Google or the Open Source movement, says Hamel, to break those habits and use technology to allow things to be done differently. He points to Whirlpool as an example of a company that has trained thousands of people to be innovators, only to be thwarted by the change-resistant managers running the core brands. Whirlpool responded by earmarking 15% of its capital budget for projects that were truly innovative, sending the message those recalcitrant managers faced capital starvation if they didn’t start fostering innovations in their departments.
May 23, 2006
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…….
I saw the recent thoughts in your Creativity Newsletter....it made me sad... just because the Agency is restructuring doesn't automatically mean it is positive or a result of the creative process...it simply means managers haven't been held accountable for their spending or organizing of their departments. Many changes are happening in the Forest Service right now that haven't really been thought through but creativity can help us adapt, make us more pliable - and even help us make it to the other side with grace. Thanks.
What is creativity and innovation all about anyway? It's about new ideas and applying them at work. It’s common sense. But most of the times in the Forest Service, it seems to take a consultant to come in and tell you that your processes need to change. I still don’t understand why we need to hire all of these consultants in the Forest Service when we have employees telling our managers and supervisors about problems and suggesting new ideas. It is all about trust and communication.
Jeff Baumgartner writes a monthly newsletter, Report 103. It focuses on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business. The web site is: http://www.jpb.com/report103/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…