Thursday, December 13, 2007

Resources for Creativity

There are many hits to my website from people searching for ‘resources for creativity’. Goodness knows what they are actually looking for. Some may be looking for resources for training and workshops but many appear to be looking for a list of tools and materials that are mandatory or desirable for getting Creativity into an organisation.

So what is the answer to the question ‘What do I need to be creative?’ For a perfect creative situation the answer is that you need absolutely nothing as any resources can be created from scratch. The real truth is that organisations are not patient and do like to get a head start. Also the mix of human resources may not be ideal so here is the list that you need:

  • External stimulus or facilitation
  • An agreed set of objectives
  • Internal champions/creative catalysts
  • An initial embryonic framework for promoting creativity
  • Time and space for employees to be creative
  • Enlightened managers who will actively ‘un manage’ creativity
  • A light touch audit method
  • A simple but effective library of techniques that individuals can use
  • A method of capturing, storing and retrieving ideas and feedback

Seeing the above list you may be tempted to ‘go it alone’ and some may find that they succeed however the following should be borne in mind:

  • Internally led idea generation initiatives often fail or do not deliver as expected
  • Externally led idea generation initiatives often fail or do not deliver as expected
  • Simply running creativity training courses will have no beneficial effect on your bottom line
  • Leaving creativity and innovation solely in the hand of your HR department will often consign them to the wilderness

The moral is to get some good advice, target your scarce resources and do not commit to anyone who wishes you to create a long lasting dependency on them.

The Confusion of Innovation

On my travels I talk to a number of people who claim that they just don’t ‘get innovation’. Holistic, whole company Innovation is an abstract concept but how complicated is it? The answer may be more puzzling than you think.

First of all let us consider a simple Innovation project. Typically it consists of a number of steps from inception through, audit, idea generation and prototyping to roll out. Add some project management and knowledge transfer activities and you have it nailed. So far so good, although you may question what these steps actually are.

Now we are ready to consider continuous Innovation. Imagine all your Innovation steps neatly drawn out onto a Gantt chart and then wrap them around on themselves so that your nice straight lines become a series of concentric circles. This is but a snapshot in time so now add the time dimension. Imagine your circles turned on their side like a series of disks and then add time by moving the disks from left to right. You should now be looking at a series of concentric cylinders.

Now many companies will have several ongoing Innovation initiatives, all at different stages and involving different people so consider all of your innovation projects in the manner described above – several sets of concentric cylinders all moving at varying rates and requiring management and resources. Would this convince you that your organisation, and especially your managers, need some assistance in getting to grips with the situation?