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05 2012


Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

As usual several things converged to suggest this topic. First was a call to speak to a several teams about how to become more creative, which then focused me on the spate of recent newsletters aimed at how to boost creativity and one in particular. This is welcome news that organizations are realizing they have to innovate to stay alive and thrive. Several emails also pointed to an instructive IBM survey of CEOs that shows most of them are pushing for collaboration over command and control and analyzes benefits and risks. The prime benefit of collaboration, of course, is increased creativity and innovation and IBM again confirms more successful companies more often use this management style. However the creativity item that most caught my eye was a report in the Fast Company ‘Co.Create’ site about the venerable and venerated John Cleese presenting at Cannes International Festival of Creativity. Cleese noted he’s been talking about it since early in his career, but of course in those days businesses were paying even less lip service to its requirements than today. I bet the presentation was hysterically funny, too. But will it make a difference? In fact we know a great deal about stimulating creativity, how the unconscious mind will produce some amazingly creative and even workable ideas if given half a chance. Cleese has no doubt been doing his homework as well as dredging up stories since he enjoys paid speaking engagements and this is a very hot topic at the moment. He certainly hits many of the highlights. The problem of course for most organizations isn’t finding information about how creativity works or speakers to present the ideas to their staff. No. The problem is that for decades of command and control leadership the consistent message has been, ‘Don’t bring up your ideas, we aren’t interested. Your boss will tell you how and what to do and your job is to do it – fast, without question, accurately. and let your bosses collectively worry about whether it works well or not.’ Strategy stays in the realm of the CEO et. al. while how to carry out strategy best remains with the mid-managers who readily copy the management style they see most often reflected in how their bosses treat them – uncreatively. Now many are going to try to remedy the situation like this: they will bring in a speaker to talk about some aspect of creativity from how the brain works to the need for trust and a feeling of security before people will venture to put forward untested, risky ideas. All true. Then management will order people to apply these tactics. Then there will be a noticeable move by management to sit back and wait for orders to produce results. or else.. Well, it might or might not result actual in firings, but very likely in a new flavor of the month program within a short time. That will be the general expectation, with a sensible ‘wait it out and see’ reaction from staff. That might even help the situation in time provided staff can be led to believe they won’t be fired for making a mistake, for suggesting something that ultimately doesn’t work or that they won’t simply be told, ‘we thought of that already and it didn’t work,’ or any of the similar comments one normally expects to hear when new ideas are floated. What isn’t so likely to happen is a collaborative effort by everyone, including managers at all levels up to the CEO, to actively solicit, praise and attempt to support and operationalize ideas from the lowest levels on up. If such support is forthcoming I can guarantee you would find a ready pool of creative suggestions and solutions ALREADY thought out and available from quite a few staff. People don’t have to be ordered or empowered to ‘bring their brains to work’ and use them. They already do. Some are rustier than others from having ideas tossed back at them with no action time and again, but slowly they will start to regenerate them and put them forward if the right encouragement is offered. I’m not saying every one of those previously shunned ideas would work, but a great many of them will at the very least stimulate even better ideas when they fail or perhaps only partially work and reveal what’s been missed that often is right in front of our noses. There’s a cumulative momentum that builds in groups where genuine interest in trial and error and pilot projects is shown by senior management and where there’s no downside to good ideas that don’t quite work out. Creativity isn’t primarily an individual sport. It rarely responds to orders. Bookmark and share this post More »

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