Engaging and Sustaining Creativity and Innovation: Part 3

“Innovation is scary.  After all, no one knows what the outcome will be.  How do you persuade people to take the leap and trust that this is the way to go?  -David Kelley via TED

Disruption.  Ingenuity.  Imagination.  Inventiveness.  Experimentation.  Prototyping.  Failure.  Perseverance.  Connecting Dots.  Cross-Pollinating.  Risk-Taking.

All of which are associated with creativity and innovation…

Each one requiring us to stretch and push ourselves out and beyond our current comfort zones.

Terms that we instantly associate with those innovative organizations that constantly carry the creative torch – Ideo, Google, Starbucks, Amazon, Nike, Apple, and Intuit – just to name a few.

And what we find when we broadly scan these creative and innovative companies to determine what sets them apart…creative and innovative leaders pushing these processes within and across all levels of their organization.

In their Forbes article, How Innovative Leaders Maintain Their Edge, Jeff Dyer and Hal Gregersen found that…“successful leaders personally understand how innovation happens and they try to imprint their behaviors as processes and philosophies within their organization.” 

They add…“Put simply, leaders at the top of this year’s most innovative company list behave innovatively.  But putting innovators at high levels is not enough to create and sustain and innovation premium.  It’s necessary, but not sufficient, for organizational success.”

And their point is well taken…it is not enough for the leader to be creative and innovative…it has to cascade across the organization if it is to flourish and grow.  To be a true organizational advantage.

Which means we not only have to look at how to build up what the Tom and David Kelley refer to as the “creative confidence” of each individual in the organization…leaders have to create models that engage and sustain it as an ongoing process.

So as we scan the strategies shared from those innovative organizations…or the process revelations provided from such creative leaders as Tom Kelley, David Kelley, Tim Brown, Tina Seelig, Teresa Amabile, Keith Sawyer, David Burkus, Faisal Hoque…or the articles shared from Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Inc., and Fast Company…we have to determine if there are some basic similarities in what they believe creates and sustains creativity and innovation within our organizations.

As well as understanding that we may not have the time or space here to explore all of their ideas, strategies, and processes…

But with the understanding that there may be a few surface level take-aways that help us on the journey to make our organizations more creative and innovative.  

Let’s explore just a few;

  • Ideas, creativity, innovation is not confined to a select few that were born with the ‘creative gene’.  All three can come from anywhere and anyone.  When leaders are open to this…we have a better opportunity to cascade both creativity and innovation at all levels of the organization.  It requires openness, awareness, listening, and the ability to embrace the ideas of others.
  • Constraints don’t constrain…rather, they actually push creativity and innovation within an organization.  Leaders have to determine the constraints necessary to engage the creative juices of their people.  Constraints are like positive conflict…they bring people into the process and give them something push back on.
  • Failure is a by-product of the creative and innovative process.  If we are going to engage our ideas, if we are going to experiment, if we are going to push past our comfort zone and the status quo…we will experience some failure.  What is important is the ability of the organization to understand that failure will be part of the process if we are going to push past our boundaries…but, if we learn and rebound quickly from those failures…progress then becomes a by-product of failure.
  • Things like empathy, emotional intelligence, relationships and connection are incredibly important to creating a culture that embraces the processes that lead to increased levels of creativity and innovation.  If we are going to be able to experiment more, face failure, create positive learning and feedback loops, and push forward as more agile organizations…we have to have the leadership, environment and culture that will allow these processes to grow and flourish at all levels.  Which requires greater levels of  empathy, emotional intelligence…as well as stronger relationships and connections.

In the end, while an ongoing supply of ideas is vital to creating and sustaining creativity and innovation in our organizations…it really and truly comes down to the ‘human‘ factor.

How human are our organizations?  How do we care, support, invest, and raise up those in our organizations?

We understand that creativity and innovation is about engaging the thinking and ideas of those we lead…but it is about so much more.  It is about creating the relationships and connections that bring forth the thinking and ideas that allow our institutions and organizations to become and remain creative and innovative.

It is the ‘humanness‘ of our organizations that will eventually allow us to create and sustain the creativity and innovation necessary to move forward confidently into the chaos and turbulence of an unknown and constantly changing world.

It takes courage to leave the land of certain outcomes...  -Tom and David Kelley Creative Confidence


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