As creativity and innovation become key competitive issues, more executives and managers are looking for ways to increase the level of originality, inventiveness, and "out-of-the-box" thinking.
As the modern business environment evolves toward information-intensive products and services, the old ways of managing and leading are beginning to break down. The emphasis in business today is less and less on tool-and-task jobs, and more and more on jobs that require know-how and know-what. Most employees are no longer hired hands, they are hired brains, and businesses need to capitalize on their knowledge, their learning ability and their creativity. The new bottom line is located just above the eyebrows.
More and more, the job of the manager will be to hire and manage brains. And when they cant hire the best brains, theyll have to work within their organization to create the best brains. Obviously its good for employees to become more knowledgeable, but can you help them become more creative? Can you actually develop the capacity for greater innovation within your current employees? If you could, where would you begin?
The accepted wisdom would be no. You dont "train" people to be creative. You have to identify those "creative types" and hire them. Then watch as the corporate culture slowly saps their brains of every possible original thought before spitting them out like a watermelon seed. Thats the conventional wisdom. But corporate creativity need not be a contradiction in terms, although creativity very often does die a natural death in organizations as they mature. Growth based on past success can unconsciously lead to rigidity, fossilization and lack of responsiveness. The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.
Ask failed "dotcom" companies about the value of infrasturucture. Ask failed "blue chips" about the value of creativity. "New" creativity must embrace infrastructure. "Old" infrastructure must embrace new creativity. Companies who feel that they only need to maintain position are woefully out of touch with global reality and are literally betting their corporate lives. Corporate creativity is becoming more important in the modern competitive business environment. The modern corporation must have internal processes that are creative, regenerative and productive rather than controlled, confining and normative. They must adapt, move with the times, respond to changes, and evolve to keep in touch.
Corporate creativity will become even more important in the future. Organizational efficiencies and technology will become comparable among competitors. While the corporate emphasis now is on maximizing the performance of employees, this, too, will fail to offer a competitive edge. Competitive advantage will come from new concepts. Companies must think smarter; otherwise, their success, even their survival, is in question.
How do you go about making your particular organization creative and adaptive? You dont have to have an organization of intellectual giants in order to be highly creative. Clear and creative thinking is a learnable skill.
Encourage Employees to Think More SLOWLY.
We've been conditioned to operate on "internet time" where speed isn't just valued; it's an absolute must. But this often causes people to rush their thinking, resulting in superficial solutions and ideas. Even for the most inherently creative individuals, it often takes time to analyze all the implications of a problem, consider a variety of potential solutions, or develop a range of creative options.
Let your employees slow down, and you'll get more clear, creative thinking that produces insightful, productive solutions. Don't expect their best thinking to come out of a two-hour brainstorming session, or even a day-long retreat. Instead, hold your brainstorming session when faced with a tough problem. Then, encourage employees to set aside quiet "thinking" time to work things through free of distraction. The Brightman Associates (BAI) unique DELPHI process will accomplish this for you.
Treat EVERYONE as a Creative Thinker.
Don't isolate creative thinking into a single group or department. Communicate to ALL employees that they are creative at some level. The goal is to instill in the whole organization a broad self-confidence that their ideas DO merit consideration. Organizational self-confidence is important. Don't let any employee wrongly assume that because he or she isn't a high school or college graduate, they can't be a clear thinker. As in other learned skills which require confidence, you need to believe you are already good to in order to excel. In winning organizations, everyone contributes. Stakeholders perform the best!
REWARD Creativity, Not Cleverness.
When employees try to prove how smart they are, because this is the behavior that their organization rewards, it can negatively effect their creativity. They may feel compelled to introduce extraneous information, use big words, or show off their expertise, all of which detracts from their own creativity as well as that of others. When an employee, or group of employees, is concerned with the impression they're making, they won't be thinking as creatively.
BREAK the Either-Or Thinking Habit.
One of the most common mental habits that limits creative thinking is to frame a problem or challenge with only two alternatives. Yes or no, now or later, etc. Should we enter a new market? Should I quit my job? (yes or no). It's wrong to assume there are only "either-or" choices Explore many alternatives before coming to a conclusion. Search for additional options. Hear out opposing opinions. Be open to outcome. Different is only differentnot wrong.
AVOID Telegraphing the "RIGHT" Answer.
Many individuals and organizations make the mistake of asking for creative input while at the same time subtly communicating what they REALLY want to hear. For example, asking employees for ideas to use new technology to enhance productivity may subtly tell them that you're not interested in new policies or practices which could achieve equal or better results with or without new technology. Craft your questions as carefully as your statements.
It's very easy to start with a conclusion (i.e. new technology can help us increase productivity) and then go about proving yourself correct. But creative thinkers are never wedded to foregone conclusions like this. Instead they open themselves up to "out-of-the-box" thinking to come up with ideas and strategies that no one else has thought of. Ask questions before making statements.
Here are a Few More QUICK TIPS for Boosting Creativity:
Set Aside Prejudice Creative thinking goes out the window when you automatically reject someone's ideas because you dislike him or her. It's just as bad to accept ideas uncritically because you respect someone. Form judgments on the merits of what's being proposed-not on who's doing the proposing.
Don't Be a Dependent Thinker Think on your own. Don't ask others to think for you. Be prepared to defend your position. When you explain how you arrived at a conclusion, you crystallize your thinking. Clear thinking takes practice. Develop your skills by going it alone before asking for advice. Ask employees to explain their thinking. This will encourage them to think more deliberately. Youll also identify previously hidden managerial ability.
Think on PAPER Writing down your thoughts helps you to be more logical. Poorly formulated or half-baked thinking does not look good on paper. From time to time, when tackling a tough problem, outline your thoughts, step-by-step. It will help you detect and correct weaknesses in your thought process. Every minute spent in planning saves at least six minutes in implementation.
Don't Ignore HUNCHES Respect your feelings and intuition. Many major discoveries in science and medicine have come about through chance observation, accident or mistake. Hunches often trigger innovative thinking. Resist becoming so busy that you dont take quality time to think and feel.
LEARN from Mistakes Review your thinking after you've made a mistake. When you find out how you thought wrong, you can void making similar thinking errors again. Learn from your mistakes. When things don't turn out as planned, look for faulty thinking. Failure is a wisdom opportunityuse it!
Don't Get Caught Up in Proving Others Wrong Antagonistic thinking is a waste of time and also damaging to relationships. It may be temporarily ego-inflating to put someone's ideas down, but finding fault and being critical undermines constructive thought. Instead of attacking the other persons ideas, listen carefully. Focus on helping to improve and develop everyones thoughts. Inclusion has a higher yield than exclusion. Winning ideas are capital assets!
CONFUSION "all-ways" precedes learning let go of your comfortable certainties. Be open to the uncomfortable. Crises and chaos are masked opportunity. Open people. Dont shut people down with the stealth of a culture that is more closed that anyone will acknowledge. Develop the courage to listen. Listening begins learning. More is always being revealed. Have the eyes, ears, minds, hearts and courage to welcome change as opportunity.
Let Each Day, Each Moment, Be a New Beginning
Embrace the Art of the Possible.
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