CREATIVITY, BUILDING THE FUTURE
Creativity! Do you see it? Do you recognize new ideas? Are you building a culture of creative inclusivity? There has never been a better time to energize your thinking about innovation and making it work better inside your organization. Have you mobilized your organization and made everyone an innovator? The pressure to be innovative and creative from customers has never been greater.
Innovation is about much more than products and services. It’s about finding new and better ways to work, improve customer service and add value to an organization. Innovation is not something you should leave to chance. So, how does your organization convert ideas into reality? The method you use may make all the differences in whether the final outcomes work. Compare your organization’s idea gathering capability to a cone. The wide end extends out into the future and is open to limitless ideas. As the cone narrows, some ideas are cast off, and others are refined. At the narrowest end, ideas become reality. Consider the following stages of idea gathering for your organization.
Intuition…When a new idea comes to mind, people usually have an initial, intuitive response. The importance of intuition should not be downplayed. It’s a valuable tool that often predicts whether an idea will fly.
Strategic exploration…If an idea makes it past the intuition stage, it is then subjected to a series of questions. Does the idea contribute to the organizational goals? Does it match with where we want to be in five years? What are the implications of implementing the idea? How would we carry it to completion?
Implementation…The primary concern here is how to get an idea off the ground and into concrete form. The entire length of the cone has many doors where ideas can be discarded. After you move into implementation and tactics, rejecting an idea becomes much more difficult. Managers familiar with these steps are better equipped to catch misguided ideas before they make it to this phase.
Creating a Culture of Discovery
We all know the value of learning. Learning helps people make wise choices. It helps people solve problems. It keeps people engaged, interested and young at heart. Learning should be a lifelong pursuit. The organizations that foster creativity and innovation also are full of discovery and learning.
That is why it’s imperative for those of us who are done with our formal learning to continue our education at work. The best workplaces in America are full of discovery and learning. They cultivate employee curiosity.
For learning to take hold, people must work at it…they must practice daily, be inquisitive, be willing to take risks. Learning helps you thrive.
Although the term “learning organization” has been around for more than a decade now, two authors say they prefer “discovering organization.” Chip Bell and Billjack Bell, authors of “Magnetic Service,” explain that learning suggests adding to existing knowledge, while “discovering” means “actively searching, deliberately exploring, and finding.” What can leaders do to foster a culture of discovery? Here is what the authors recommend:
- Ask questions at every opportunity…Demonstrate your passion for learning by constantly asking managers and employees about customers’ experience and progress on projects. These questions are not meant to “check-up” on employees, but to search for new information that may prove valuable.
- Tell stories…Stories are a great way to communicate meaning, stir inquiry, and instruct. When FedEx employees tell the story of a frontline employee who authorized a private jet to transport equipment to needed to rescue young Jessica McClure from a well in Texas, they are really saying, “We are empowered to make decisions on behalf of customers.”
- Deliver constructive feedback…Instead of an accusatory, “You were wrong to do” that, ask, “What might be the impact of your actions?” Provide honest, clear feedback that leaves no doubts in the listener’s mind.
Some of the best inventive moments were born out of wrong
thinking. Most people start with the right way so they all
follow the same path. The wrong way will lead to mistakes from
which you can learn and create new discoveries...the kind of
original ideas that come to life when we dare to be different,
keep an open mind and have no fear of failure.
U.S. News & World Report, “Lessons From The Rule Breakers,” Rick Newman, Executive Edition, Pages 2–4, September 25, 2006 (www.usnews.com).
Information Week, “Tom Peters On Innovation: Experiment Fearlessly,” Charles Babcock, September 12, 2006 (www.informationweek.com).
Wall Street Journal, “How To Be A Smart Innovator,” Nicholas Carr, Page R7, September 11, 2006 (www.wsj.com).
Industry Week.com, “CEOs Need To Embrace Innovation,” Sam Kogan, September 6, 2006 (www.industryweek.com).
Government Executive, “Turning Ideas Into Action” Brian Friel, Page 89, August 15, 2006 (www.govexec.com).
Ideation, The Birth and Death of Ideas, Douglas Graham and Thomas Bachmann, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ 2004.
These guys just don’t juice the orange – they peel it, slice it, and
serve it up. Without a doubt, when it comes to business, creativity
is the new vitamin C.
Alan M. Webber
The Creativity Killers
Don’t kill creativity! Have you heard one of these deadly phrases at your last staff meeting? Creativity can be difficult to spark, and it can be killed quickly. Leaders especially need to be cautious. The words or the comments of leaders can cause individuals to be silent and not offer their ideas. Just one cynical phrase or sarcastic remark can prevent good, creative ideas from being shred. Here are some comments from the Center for Creative Leadership that everyone should avoid…
- A good idea, but…
- The old timers won’t use it.
- We’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it works.
- Why hasn’t someone suggested it before if it’s such a good idea?
- Let’s sit on it for a while.
- Be practical.
- We’ve never done it that way.
- Ahead of the times.
- Let’s form a committee.
- Costs too much.
- Too hard to administer
- Let’s take a survey first.
Tech publishers Tim O’Reilly says creativity is no longer about which companies have the most visionary executives, but who has the most compelling “architecture of participation.” At software firm Rite-Solutions, the co-founders have devised a way to tap into the individual creativity of staff by encouraging any employee to propose acquiring new technology, entering a new business or making an efficiency improvement. Those proposals then become commoditized via an internal stock exchange…complete with ticker symbols…and can be bought or traded among other employees as an indication of their endorsement or rejection. “At most companies, especially technology companies, the most brilliant insights tend to come from people other than senior management. Se we created a marketplace to harvest collective genius,” says CEO James Lavoie. The best part about the systems says Lavoie, is that it gathers good ideas from unlikely sources. An administrative staff member, with no technical expertise, thought that the pattern-recognition algorithms used in the company’s military applications could also be used to create an entertaining way to teach students history or math. Her stock…called Win/Play/Learn…attracted support from engineers, who were eager to turn her idea into a product. The result? A contract with Hasbro to help build its VuGo multimedia system. “We would never have connected those dots,” says Lavoie. “But one employee floated an idea, lots of employees got passionate about it and that led to a new line of business.”
New York Times
March 26, 2006
Roadblocks To Innovation
Call them devil’s advocates, speed bumps or bozos; every organization has people who act as roadblocks to innovation. They are a powerful force in American business…so powerful that they threaten to stifle the consistent and bold innovation that is considered a requisite of survival for American manufacturing companies. Fortunately, other types of people actually stimulate innovation, and organizations should endeavor to identify and nurture them. Tom Kelley of product design firm IDEO, which developed the Apple mouse, Polaroid’s I-Zone instant camera and the Palm V, identifies 10 faces of innovators. But Kelley emphasized three key “learning” roles: the anthropologist, who ventures out into the field to learn how customers use products; the experimenter, who is willing to learn from failure in order to achieve eventual success; and the cross-pollinator, who integrates new ideas from other companies, industries or cultures. Kelley says of the three, anthropologists are the most crucial. They can identify latent needs that customers haven’t even raised yet. But Kelley encourages organizations to recruit and nurture all three. “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but seeing with new eyes,” he said, quoting French novelist Marcel Proust. Kelley also encourages executives to become reverse mentors, willing to learn from younger generations, “like eggs leading chickens.”
Wisconsin Technology Network
May 18, 2006
Some thoughts from a few Dreamers…
I have just discovered Creativity Fringes and have obviously missed a very interesting and compelling newsletter. I find many of your suggestions vital to the future success of the Forest Service and my own personal fulfillment. While I don’t have much to offer, I think that that your advice is extremely valuable and worthwhile.
Your light bulb highlights the need for creativity. While this may signal a need for bright ideas, we can’t wait around for creative bolts of inspiration. I agree with many of your propositions that we need a process in the Forest Service for innovation. I haven’t seen anyone discuss this on my District or Forest. I offer you one challenge! How can your messages be conveyed to the management officials in the Forest Service?
For almost 20 years SolutionPeople led by Gerald “Solutionman” Haman has thought beyond the box to develop solutions that helped innovators generate over 2 million ideas. His web site is: http://www.solutionpeople.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 (http://www.fcg.gov/creativity_fringes.shtml). (Historical)
Thank You For Taking Time To Be Creative…