A blue screen flickers and glows. Faces peer out of little video rectangles. It is the sixth virtual meeting of day. Nineteen pairs of eyes stare wearily at Kevin’s section of the digital vista as he implores his team: “We need to find another way, team. We must make this year work for us. The way we used to do things is just not working any more. We need to think out the box, here. C’mon everyone.” (The eyes blink silently back at him. Sighs are breathed. Tony scratches her head and thinks: How?)
In a study last year, McKinsey concluded that prioritizing innovation today is the key to unlocking postcrisis growth, yet few consider themselves equipped to face the challenge. In addition to the seismic impact of the pandemic, automation is displacing jobs and cutting down on process-oriented tasks. Businesses urgently need to get people thinking creatively to cope with uncertainty and the new ways of working.
Innovation in a crisis: Why it is more critical than ever, June 17, 2020 | McKinsey.com Article
Why is ongoing innovation so hard to succeed at?
You too may intuitively understand that you need to innovate more. Whether it is rethinking how you do business or reinventing your career, you sense that more creative creativity is needed, but may be unsure where to start. If so, read on!
Creativity is largely underdeveloped and misunderstood. Yet, creative solutions are required for innovation to shape a new world and grow sustainable business.
At Creativity Wake-Up, we have been investing our time and energy into helping people and companies develop creativity for innovation. This is what we eat, sleep and dream of. Here’s a simple recipe that will show you how we think, what we do and, I hope, will give you a good starting point for developing a more innovative culture where you work.
Creativity is personal. To operate as a creative organisation, each person should be continuously developing their creative intelligence. If your business is a game of football, then creativity is each player’s individual fitness. Innovation would be how you play the game on the field, but you would not be able to win with players who are unfit. Each person should learn about and be on a journey to develop their creativity – from the frontline staff to the team in the c-suite. No-one is exempt. This is not a realm just for marketing or for the innovation team.
Creativity begins in our minds. It involves our mindsets which are constructed by our education, our experience, our thoughts, and our deeply held beliefs. Most creativity and innovation development programmes teach processes and tools. These are great, but they are not the starting point. Our differentiation at Creativity Wake-Up is that we understand that our mindset is the foundation of our creativity. It is the soil. We need to get that soil right so that stuff can grow in it!
For individuals, one of the biggest barriers to creativity is that people do not see themselves as creative. We begin our learning experiences by waking people up to the power of their creative intelligence. To do this we use psychology research, neuroscience, history, modern philosophy and personal experience. We find that once people understand that their brains can change, they get new brain matter every day and they can increase their creative intelligence with their thoughts and a deliberate practice, they are inspired! There is a paradigm shift that they are unlikely to return from.
As Morpheus explains to Neo in the matrix when he hands him the choice of red pill or blue pill: “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
We’ve developed a model to help you visualise your creative development. The bottom layer is the creative mindset. We’ve included eight key aspects of this mindset. We don’t proclaim that these conclude everything that goes into creativity but we believe they are the main ingredients. They are: courage, self-belief, curiosity, humour, perseverance, learner, delight and ownership.
Once people are woken up to their creative potential and have started working on their mindset, begin adding creativity skills. There are many fantastic skills, we focus on eight skills that form powerful building blocks for innovation: The use of imagination (crazily underdeveloped these days), flexibility (the ability to take on different perspectives and reframe concepts), association (connecting ideas), fluency (speed and volume of input, thinking and creative output), stillness, visual thinking and mind mapping.
Each of these is like a sports drill. It seems silly to bounce a football continually on your knee. What does this have to do with the game on field? Yet, drills like these build a players’ confidence, reflexes and skill and ultimately improve performance. Similarly, these creativity skills will build up the strength of your workforce so they can innovate with confidence and achieve success.
The next step is to help teams work creatively together. Top performing teams achieve creative synergy by having an inspiring purpose, a strong team process for solving problems and pursuing opportunities together. You will likely have an inspiring purpose already. Check that everyone understands it and is bought into it. Can they articulate in their own words why your team exists (or what would not happen if the team didn’t exist?) Remember, this should be inspiring and should tie into your company’s mission.
Creative teams have healthy team dynamics. In this part of the recipe, you need to assess how the individuals in the team relate to one another. Do they understand their personality types and how their creativity shows up in terms of these types? Do they know each other’s types and how to bring out creativity in one another? The dynamics of the team will be underpinned by the team culture. A creative culture feels safe and people trust one another. There is freedom for healthy debate and creative abrasion which is vital for innovation to thrive. False harmony will kill creativity.
Teams should have a distinct problem-solving process. The one we use comes from the Creative Education Foundation and is one that has been iterated over many decades. It’s known as the Creative Problem Solving process (CPS) and looks rather obvious from the outside, yet is incredibly powerful when applied with convergent and divergent thinking principles and a range of tools to leverage each step. This process can be applied in 10 minutes or 10 hours depending on what the team needs. The more it is used, the more creativity will be released from the team as theyL work together.
Leaders are individuals and should be among the first to work on their own creativity. This is vital. This step is not about leaders as individuals but the leaders’ role of driving transformational change across the organisation. In this step, leaders get to assess their leadership impact from a creativity perspective. They get to ask: how does my creativity show up in my leadership? Am I promoting or squashing creativity in those around me? Am I role modelling creativity?
Leaders can take a leaf out of the books of innovative organisations around the world and note what they do differently. There are various levers of culture change that can be used including company norms, processes and policies. The creativity of employees is just one element of an innovative organisation. The environment, like pond water, can be conducive to creativity or it can kill it.
A key element to leading creativity is leading with vision. The more leaders can use their imagination and courage to construct and communicate a vivid and compelling vision, the more they will empower their people to be creative and to innovate.
So, there you have it, a simple recipe to progress on your journey to innovation. Great chefs don’t work alone, so do some creative collaboration and share your thoughts with others in your organisation who know this is needed. Who do you need to enrol to get things moving? Where could you start with a pilot for some individuals? Who can you connect with to share ideas and discuss what is possible?
The world is changing rapidly and innovation is an imperative. There is no innovation without creativity, so get onto the creativity development journey today.
Got questions? Need help? We would love to partner with you on your journey.
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