Saturday, November 03, 2007

Why Does My Organisation Need Creativity?

When was the last time you got into a difficult situation? Have you ever forgotten a present for a special occasion and found yourself making elaborate excuses? Well this is your creativity at work. Some people have more than others but we all have at least a spark. But why is this useful to your organisation?

Like people, organisations find themselves in difficult situations due to increased competition, global trading conditions or just increased pressure from stakeholders to perform better. There is no manual to escape, no ‘get out of jail free’ card. You will need to rely on the creativity of people at all levels within the organisation, not just management, marketing or your research and development team.

Unlike computers, people can process huge amounts of information instantaneously and then apply something completely illogical – intuition. Intuition is not crystal ball gazing but is decision making based on knowledge that cannot be currently expressed externally.

The three main drivers for creativity are knowledge and experience, frameworks and techniques and intrinsic motivation. To allow Creativity to flourish you will need to address these three areas. The interesting things is that if you have a Creative organisation you will have intrinsic motivation present amongst your employees but the converse is not necessarily true. If you have intrinsically motivated staff they may or may not be creative. Remember, a cat is a four legged animal but not all four legged animals are cats!

If you address all of the factors that affect organisational creativity then not only will you benefit directly from having a creative resource but you will gain an intrinsically motivated workforce for free. Perhaps it really is possible to get something for nothing.

Do I Need To be Creative?

The answer to this question is ‘No’. Refer to the Innovation Equation and you will soon understand why. An Innovation System is desirable from the point of view of developing new products, services or processes but it takes a wide variety of skills to make such a system work effectively. The only real requirement is for you, and those around you to have an open mind and be open to the possibility that the way you have run your company up until now may not be the same as the way it needs to be run from now onwards. This applies even if you currently run a successful business.

So the answer is ‘No’ but what should you be aware of? Well you will need to take a look at the staff you have and see what their strengths are and fill any gaps. They may need to be reorganised, either logically or geographically. Employees may need some sort of training but they will almost certainly require your ‘permission’ to behave and think in new ways.

If you are not one of the creative people yourself then you might need to widen your leadership and management skills. How would you react to the following?

  • Drastically changed working patterns

  • Having you decisions questioned

  • More testing and trialling

  • The business not being ‘lean and mean’

  • Requests to but things that are not core to your business

These are just a fraction of the things that could occur and which you will have to be ready for. Don’t panic, there will be other people in the same situation. The good thing is that by using tools such as the Innovation Equation, this whole process can be managed successfully and measured so that you have control over it.

Understanding The Innovation Equation

To see my innovation equation please take a look here where you will see the various components explained. This equation is both simple and profound. It states that innovation is simply a blend of creativity (coming up with new ideas), managing know how (the things we already know) and the frameworks that we put in place to help these processes along. Note that I have not mentioned Research and Development, High Technology, Science or any of the other keywords that both companies and governments like to use in their strategy documents. Cutting edge R & D is simply applied creativity with the emphasis on the ‘R’ whilst Product Development uses some Creativity but using existing ideas and Know How. Production is simply a physical manifestation of Know How. This may not suit those who have a drum to beat but it does keep things nice and simple.

This equation also helps to show that it takes a variety of different types of people to make innovation happen. We are talking about an innovation system rather than group of innovative people. After all, a truly creative person is the last person who you might want to look after your company accounts! On the other hand, just because your company accountant is logical, any system that you have for capturing and managing good ideas must not prevent them from making contributions.

The other main ideas to take away from the Innovation Equation are:

  • Try to bulldoze changes through your company and output can go down

  • The more mature and refined your innovation frameworks become, the greater the benefit you will derive from them

  • Innovation is essentially about people not technology

  • Innovation can be measured directly