Engaging And Sustaining Creativity And Innovation: Part 2

“There’s an inherent tension between systems and innovation.”  -Tom Kelley via The Ten Faces of Innovation

Creativity and innovation is not just found in a new idea, a tool or even technology, it is found in our mindset. And for creativity and innovation to take hold in our organizations, we have to engage that mindset on a systemwide basis. Especially if we want to see creativity and innovation push out beyond inconsistent pockets.

And for that to happen, we have to pave the way for it to be actionable, useable, and even scalable, at all levels of an organization.

Unfortunately, we too often see creativity and innovation as an add-on, an extra, when it should be woven deeply into the very fabric of all our organization is and does.

So we look for sustainability. As individuals, in our teams, as well as throughout our entire organization. We are constantly looking to find ways to sustain our efforts, so we create reminders, processes, systems all in the effort of sustaining those things that make us effective and better.

But so often, especially in regards to creativity and innovation, we still believe it only resides in a choice few individuals.

So we spend more time singing its praises, hoping that more of those ‘creative’ individuals will spring forth, than looking for ways we can truly engage and sustain beyond those ‘choice‘ few. Let alone, how we can cascade it across an entire organization, allowing it to flow and flourish from all levels.

But this is crucial to education and our organizations, and where we must continue the journey towards employing more creativity and innovation.

We must look at those processes that allow creativity and innovation to flourish and move beyond the ‘choice‘ few who have been blessed with the ‘creative‘ gene.

So let’s embark on this journey by looking at some processes that will be vital and necessary if we are to begin to engage and sustain creativity and innovation in our organizations on a systemwide, rather than individualistic and incremental basis…

  • Flow and the Idea Well – if we are going to disrupt our current level of what we consider possible, then we need access to an ongoing flow of ideas. We have this tendency to consider creativity and innovation as this ‘eureka‘ moment that we are in constant search of, believing that if we search long enough we will come to this incredible original idea.  That ‘eureka‘ moment. Where, in fact, much of what we consider to be original is just a remix of the many ideas and thoughts that we encounter on a daily basis from our conversations, thoughts and reading. Instead of working towards that one original ‘eureka’ moment…we need to be engaging daily at the ‘idea well.” Gathering from the flow. Remixing towards creativity and innovation. Creativity and innovation is found more in perseverance and fortitude than it is in any ‘eureka‘ moment.
  • Within and Beyond – in the same way we have our ‘well of ideas’ that we go to for our flow…we have to acknowledge that this well exists both within our organization and beyond. It is not one or the other, it is both. We have to engage and pull from the creativity that exists within our organization, as well as be willing to search beyond our walls for ideas and thinking that can and will disrupt our current view of what is, for what can be.
  • Connections and Networks – as Fritjof Capra alludes to in The Web of Life, The perception of the living world as a network of relationships has made thinking in terms of networks – another key characteristic of systems thinking.” We’ve had a tendency, in our organizations, to spend too much time focusing on the parts, in isolation, when we need to take a bigger, whole approach to the picture. Especially as we consider sustaining creativity and innovation. We have to begin to think more in terms of networks and connections. The more collaborative opportunities we have to engage in expressing and considering the thoughts and ideas of others, the more opportunities we create in allowing those in our organization to dip into the ‘idea well.’
  • Empathy, Value and Self-Worth – to create any type of collaborative community where we can engage and sustain creativity and innovation, trust must exist. Those in the organization have to feel valued for what they have and bring to the table. Otherwise, when they don’t feel valued, they will no longer choose to engage and bring what they have to offer to the table. And when that happens, the best ideas will never be shared and brought forth, let alone make it to the organizational table. Which is why empathy is vital.  We have to be able to engage those within our organization in ways that allow them to feel value and worth. And for that to happen, people have to know that you are for them and their success.
  • Action and Permission – permission is often the golden ticket for change, for creating and building individual and organizational capacity. When we create trusting and supportive environments, and then give people permission to try, to engage in risk that moves them out of their comfort zone, only great things can happen. Even when failure occurs…because it leads to greater learning. And it is this permission, that ultimately leads to what is necessary for creativity to turn into innovation, which is action. Permission leads to action and action ultimately leads to creativity and innovation. And this will only happen in those environments where it is supported.

Above are fives processes to consider as we look to engage and sustain creativity and innovation in education and within our organizations. All of which require leaders to create and sustain environments that are conducive to allowing creativity and innovation to be initiated and flourish.

“The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realize that they cannot be understood in isolation.”  -Fritjof Capra ‘The Web of Life

In an upcoming post (Engaging and Sustaining Creativity and Innovation: Part 3), we will continue looking at ways we can engage and sustain creativity and innovation on a broader level, by looking looking at those processes that other creative organizations have initiated in their efforts to engage and sustain creativity and innovation.

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