In our first blog we introduced Organisational Creativity as creativity for everyone in the workplace and reflected on the need for both organisational creativity and innovation to ensure survival as we face increasing volatility, disruption, and ambiguity.
In the second blog of this series, we look at how you get your organisation to a place where you can address the challenges on the horizon by developing your own organisational creativity.
The first reality to accept as you seek to get your organisation ready to embrace creativity is that you will need to be realistic about your bias against it. Then you can focus on understanding where your creativity sits so you can unlock it and build a leadership culture of organisational creativity where ideas flow then grow.
How to identify bias against creativity and overcome it
Firstly you will need to identify your own bias against creativity before you can help others identify and overcome theirs. Ask yourself, when was the last time you stopped a new idea from going any further than the conversation you were in because it sounded too ‘out there’ and you couldn’t see how it could develop? What more could you have done to try and understand what the person pitching was aiming to communicate? What open questions could you have asked them to explore their idea and helped with their own thinking for why the idea had purpose?
Do you assume that new ideas will come from your Research, Development, and Proposition Teams? How comfortable would you be if new ideas were encouraged to come from anyone in your organisation? If you cannot immediately see the profit and loss benefits do you continue with the dialogue or do you stop it?
Research from Dr. Jennifer Mueller of the University of San Diego suggests that firms, leaders, parents and other social influencers actually reject and resist creative change . The reason being is that people feel uncomfortable with anything that is ‘too’ different for us.
Generations have invested in the analytical ability and this is what we see in most boardrooms. To shift our mindset to one that embraces creativity we will need to stop ourselves from being suspicious of it. When someone comes out with a new ‘novel and useful’ idea we need to stop and ask ourselves ‘why would this work’, and ‘how could this work’ rather than ‘why wouldn’t it’.
Identifying your organisational creativity and unlocking it – creating ideas across the organisation and having a sponsor
As you come to terms with your own bias, you can start to unlock the creativity that is already in your organisation. The ability to be creative is rooted in domain knowledge, thinking styles, personality, motivation, and environment.
You can carry out a creativity survey and use analytics to identify these skills and attributes in your organisation and at the same time choose to send strategic messages from leadership to your workforce to demonstrate that you want to hear their ideas. Be clear that within the context of your organisational strategy, ideas are welcome. This could be something as simple as a shared email box, an online forum, or even a suggestion box if you are a small company. Select a leader who ‘gets it’ and has a ‘why mindset’ and start by having that leader provide leadership support to work on the ideas and then expand these more open ways of considering ideas across the leadership team. A ‘why’ mindset is one that sees potential in an idea even if it isn’t known how it could work yet.
Building a leadership culture of organisational creativity
Once an organization has established channels for ideas to be shared and granted permission for ‘why’ mindsets to flourish then they will be ready to cultivate a leadership culture of organisational creativity. An ambitious board could start to discuss new ideas with those that create them, to help shape the ‘why’. Research by MIT suggests that firms can encourage creativity at work by creating smaller teams, giving individuals more latitude, encouraging a sense of play, and giving relief from normal reporting structures that will result in a positive impact on the organisational culture. For many of today’s workforce, organisations that can differentiate themselves using a creative approach and who value and nurture their employees to unleash their creativity will find themselves at the forefront of successful transformation and set themselves apart from the competition for shareholder value, client expectations, and workforce talent. This will also allow organisations to compete more strongly for talent.
And if you don’t
No new ideas will result in no new talent. No new ideas will result in poor customer experience. No new ideas will result in organisational extinction.
Organisational Survival = Organisational Creativity + Innovation
This piece was co-authored by Elizabeth Porter
Elizabeth is a change and programme leader and Entrepreneur in Residence at Goldsmiths, University of London. She specializes in researching leadership development with a particular focus on unlocking creativity in organizations following her dissertation on the role of creativity in leadership for her Master of Science in Global Leadership. She has more than 14 years of business experience leading governance and change initiatives for large-scale global programmes.