Without creativity, business stands still or loses ground to competitors. Today's results needed to be delivered while simultaneously creating the future. To foster creativity: remove barriers and set up a culture that stimulates it.
The creative person generates new ideas; the entrepreneur turns them into profits. Leaders are either personally creative or quick to exploit the ideas of creative people. Entrepreneurship is the process of marrying a good idea and a market need.
Entrepreneurs take the risks, creative employees provide the raw material. Creativity depends on creative qualities, a supportive environment and opportunity. Innovation in organizations is very much like thought leadership except that the thought leader does not need to be personally creative. He or she can promote the creative ideas of others instead.
There is no formula for identifying the creative person, but some are:
- independent - needing to think things through for themselves.
- inquisitive - having a seemingly unquenchable thirst to understand.
- iconoclastic - nonconforming - not wed to authority or the status quo.
- confident - feeling they can do something better than others.
- determined - convinced they will find a better way if they persist.
- learners - always keen to acquire new knowledge.
- intuitive - making leaps of imagination, not needing to stick to the facts.
- open-minded - no rush to decide, digging deeper, studying new angles.
Barriers to Creativity
Creativity can be blocked for any one of several reasons:
- The value of getting things right time can induce a fear of mistakes and experimentation.
- So can a blame culture where people become afraid of making mistakes.
- Managers who are not as secure as they should be can resist or block ideas that are not their own or which they see as threatening.
- A culture that over emphasizes cost containment, processes, consistency or efficiency.
- A reward system that too exclusively celebrates getting things done fast with no mistakes.
- A general fear of risk taking, wanting to analyze everything to death, to wait and see what others do in the market before acting.
- A lack of explicit funding for experimentation.
- A strict requirement to demonstrate the value of an idea before it has a chance to prove itself.
- A tendency to shoot down novel ideas as a way of scoring points.
- An over allegiance to past successes, proven experience and tried and tested methods.
- A suspicion of novelty, a fear of the unproven.
- A resistance to learning from mistakes or trial and error, a tendency to blame external factors or other people for failures rather than to learn from them.
- Short termism - a drive to meet short term financial goals rather than to invest in the future.
Provide opportunities to be creative
- Creativity is like finding that elusive piece in a jigsaw puzzle.
- To find the missing piece you first need to see how the other pieces fit together.
- In an R&D lab or software house all the pieces may be hidden within the lab itself.
- In broader business contexts, the pieces are scattered over several markets.
- The opportunity to be creative depends on insight into a wide range of trends.
- Increasing complexity will make this insight harder to come by in any one person.
- Expose employees to as wide a range of contexts as possible.
- Consider employee exchanges and secondments with complementary industries/customers.
- Mix together a wider range of perspectives, especially more outsiders.
- Develop managers to be opportunity generators - to be better at stirring the pot.