CREATIVITY, IS IT VALUED?
Fall is just around the corner and it seems to be the time of year when people think about the end of summer; leaves are starting to fall in some locations, vacation time is over, and school is starting. This is the time of year you see a renewing of emphasis on work. We are feeling energized and want to work on something new that will make an immediate difference. You are looking back to see if you met your goals for the year and looking to the next year for success. How can you capture some of this creative energy at work? What about recognizing people for their creativity and innovation as you prepare for your performance evaluations this year?
At least poets, artists, and musicians get public acknowledgment for their achievements and hard work. They get to sign their work, they may receive media coverage, and they typically enjoy praise at book signings and openings. The creative people in our organizations, the Forestry Technician, Wildlife Biologist, Engineer, Computer Specialist, managers, and supervisors, generally don’t get such recognition. They can work anywhere in the Forest Service whether it’s on a Ranger District, Supervisor’s Office, Regional Office, or the Washington Office. But these “idea people” crave and deserve as much recognition as the next person. Delivering a hand written letter and praising them in public are great ideas. But here are some more ways to offer praise:
Provide visibility. Allow creative achievers to present their proposals or reports to upper level managers. If possible, enter their ideas in contests or national forums. These actions convey your pride in their accomplishments.
Ask them to teach. Give high achievers the chance to teach to their peers. Teaching is an ego-gratifying task and allows the achiever to be in the heady position of expert.
Keep it coming. If you feel uncomfortable continually rewarding the same people in public, go for a less visible approach. Celebrate their birthdays or their anniversary date with your organization with personal notes or a thank-you basket delivered to their home. Whatever you do, keep offering words of praise and thanks and don’t take your idea people for granted. Practice recognizing achievements on a daily basis.
Create a special project. Reward creative performers with a great assignment. Create a special project that they will love or encourage them to pursue of their own ideas. Let them spread their wings!
Recognize their effort. Everyone wants to be appreciated. Competent people, quiet people, even managers want to know and receive meaningful acknowledgment of their efforts.
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.
Babson Insight, “The Iconoclasts Approach to Innovation: An Interview With Dean Kamen, August 2006 (www.babsoninsight.com).
Training & Development, “Make Innovation Work In Your Workplace,” Jeff DeGraff and Pete Bacevice, Pages 51-53, August 2006 (www.astd.org).
Penn State Live, “Developing Innovation Leaders Can Be Crucial to Corporate Competitiveness, Growth,” Vicki Fong and David Glidden, July 21, 2006 ( http://live.psu.edu).
VNUVET.com, “The Inspiration For Innovation,” Paul Sloane, July 20, 2006 (www.vnunet.com ).
Wired, “What Kind of Genius Are You,” Daniel H. Pink, July 2006 (www.wired.com).
10 Rules For Strategic Innovators, From Idea to Execution, Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA 2005.
Artists are by nature entrepreneurs, they're just not called that.
They have the ability to visualize something that doesn't exist,
to look at a canvas and see a painting. Entrepreneurs do that.
That's what makes them different from businesspeople.
Businesspeople are essentially administrators. Entrepreneurs
are by definition visionaries. Entrepreneurs and artists are
interchangeable in many ways. The hip companies know that.
Bill Strickland, President
Manchester Craftsmen's Guild
Stamp Out Dinosaur Thinking
Are your employees unwilling to break out of the mold and try new ideas? Do they always revert to the old way of doing things…even when the old way is no longer the best way? Then pay attention to this story from 1001 Ways to Energize Employees by Bob Nelson:
Alagasco, a utility in Birmingham, AL, had the kind of organizational culture described above. More than 130 years of an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…and even it it’s a little broke, leave it alone” culture had destroyed employees’ willingness to try new things.
Enter Mike Warren. When he took over as President, he set about trying to change that old culture. And one of the most effective things he did was also one of the simplest. He bought a rubber stamp in the shape of a dinosaur. And whenever he came across any piece of paper that the thought represented the old way of thinking, he would dinosaur stamp it and sends it back. The message was clear: Update your thinking, or you will be extinct.
Creativity In School
Want to get ahead? Get creative. Today, creativity in business is all about differentiating a product or company. Every brand has two or three competitors, so it’s essential to make yours stand out. Stanford engineering professor Bob Sutton says tomorrow’s best job candidates will need a creative ability that comes from working with different kinds of people on challenging projects. Business schools are responding by encouraging students to think outside the business box, not only to enhance their own personal creativity, but their management of others’. More and more, business leaders realize that creativity stimulates growth. Nearly three-quarters of executives surveyed in the Boston Consulting Group’s 2005 innovation survey said their companies will increase spending on innovation. Almost 90% said that growth through innovation has become essential for success in their industry. But not everyone is convinced that innovation should be a focus for MBAs. Mastery of other skills, especially leadership, ethics, and business fundamentals like finance and accounting, should come before creativity, says Ed Conlon, associate dean at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. “The first task in wanting to be creative is to really understand the problem, knowing all the fundamental ways to approach it,” he says. “If you don’t understand what’s inside the box, then you really aren’t prepared to think outside it.”
March 26, 2006
Organizational Cultural Norms
Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated, says Robert B. Tucker, president of the consulting firm The Innovation Resource. If you’ve always rewarded risk-avoidance and punished failure, and that’s what moved managers up the ladder of success, of course your people will be gun-shy about innovating. Tucker recommends getting clear on exactly what actions, decisions, cultural norms and values you’ve been rewarding. Then look for ways to encourage different behaviors going forward. It’s not enough to talk about it. You’ll need to get the word out that expectations are changing, and that NOT innovating is the greater risk to one’s career. Steer clear of monetary rewards as way to get attention, Tucker suggests. Recognition is the most reliable reward of all. Properly motivated and recognized, even seemingly ordinary contributors will do amazing things. Publicizing examples of in-house innovation is another way to gain buy-in and reinforce new behaviors. Not only does this shine a spotlight on people who dearly need recognition, but you provide evidence that innovation isn’t something that only the Apples and the Googles can do. It’s something your people are doing too…and need to do more of. Look for people who dream up new solutions to customers’ problems, who aren’t content just to perfect the system but want to originate bold new products, services and solutions and change the system.
April 14, 2006
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…
From my perspective all I have seen in the realm of creativity is more and more rules and more and more centralization of power and authority and less time to think. Solutions to Forest Service problems all seem linked to industry standards rather than tailored to solving the specifics of each individual challenge. It seems to me that each time I try to move forward with an idea or a quick solution to a specific problem there is some impediment, rule, authority or barrier that impedes action. We are a tortoise organization in a rabbit world. We have so many rules and regulations that have to be followed it takes a week and ten people just to research what can and cannot be done. Our planning and budget strategies have no provisions for quick adjustment or rapidly changing conditions. Large scale projects can be planned ahead but there is so much chaos in the systems that each day produces its own set of unique unforeseen challenges and surprises. With budgets zeroed out before half of the year has expired latitude to adjust to changing conditions is crippled. Over-lay that with all the rules and regulations, we might as well all be wearing straight jackets. I wonder how accurate this is and how many people feel this way?
I continue to be amazed at the number of people in the Forest Service who say to me, "I'm just not creative." I think the reason for this is that our society does little to reward or encourage creativity, especially at young ages and especially in most organization. We still want too many conformists. We encourage following directions and conformity, and seem to offer many people few opportunities to make their own choices. We don't do enough to force people to make their own decisions. Thanks helping us see what we should do!
I find us lamenting about our work lives in the Forest Service. Yet maybe there’s nothing wrong at all. Maybe what’s missing with some people is a creative outlook; the people who see a glass half-full or the one’s that see it as half-empty. If you come to work every day with a different perspective, you’ll arouse that curiosity that’s been lost. Creativity has its roots in curiosity. Thanks for listening.
Visit the Eureka Ranch and check out the free stuff and take the “60 Second Benchmarking of Best Ideation Practices” quiz. The web site is: (www.eurekaranch.com).
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 (www.fcg.gov/creativity_fringes.shtml"). (Historical)
Thank You For Taking Time To Be Creative…