Creativity and Innovation
Everyone reading my newsletters – or
working with me – knows that this is one of my favorite topics and areas
of expertise. It’s one of the areas I’ve researched extensively, and the
subject of many workshops I’ve conducted.
“Every organization needs one core competence:
Everyone wants it. Few know how to manage
for it in the workplace. Some call it knowledge management, others research and
development. Whatever the name, freeing people from coloring within the lines
is a tricky business.
Some companies allow a percentage of time
for the development of pet projects – “skunk-works” but they have little
control over what is being accomplished during that time. They don’t know if
they should be giving the creator a lot more time because of the exciting
potentials coming from his/her tinkering, or whether to cut it off as totally
Others think that by having their C level
executives act as panels of venture capitalists, their employees will come to
them with their good ideas to be evaluated. The problem with this theory is
that all too often those with the good ideas either don’t think they are worthy
of this level of interest, or don’t have the presentation skills needed to make
an effective case for their ideas.
It’s not that the potential doesn’t exist
for incredibly helpful and creative ideas that would improve processes and/or
create better products. It’s fear that
gets in the way.
Think about children – and how we’ve scared
them into always coloring within the lines (conforming to social expectations.)
Think about children being taught there is only one way to think and behave.
Think about children being ridiculed for going right when others were going
That’s why most people conform. That’s why
they don’t take the risk to suggest a better way. Think about all the people who push back,
“This is the way we do it because this is the way we’ve always done it.”
I was once accused of being “a loose
cannon” because one of my hobbies is to oil paint. Too creative I was told –
“we’re afraid of hiring you – you’ll want to do it your way.”
Children are creative. They don’t yet know
the paradigm of conformity. They believe that anything is possible – and so
they are willing to try.
Can we give our workers – our staff at all
levels in our organizations – the safety to come to us with better ideas? It’s
not easy – but it is mandatory.
Not that long ago, there was a TV ad running
with a child saying: “I believe. I believe in the power of zero…” The ad goes
onto suggest that we can stop hunger in the world by working towards the power
of zero – but first we must believe it is possible.
I believe. I believe in the innate
strength, creativity, and power of individuals whether alone or in teams. I
believe we can all suspend the belief that the box boxes us in and instead can
believe that the paradigm can and should shift.