|In a previous post Building Innovation Part 1I asserted that everyone at one time was creative and innovative and that creativity was actually unlearned. So what can you do to regain your creativity? What can you do to rebuild the creativity of those in your organization and thereby the creativity of your organization? Here are 6 processes you can implement.
|1. Develop a Learning Environment – Creativity is more easily achieved with a broad range of knowledge.Â Learn as much as you can about as many things as you can. Ideas are like dots. Creativity is not a collection of dots. Creativity and innovation is creating new connection between the dots. Before you can make the connections you must first have the dots. As Steve Jobs once said, â€œCreativity is just having enough dots to connect.â€Â You get the dots by experiencing and learning many different things.
2. Encourage Challenges to Conventional Wisdom and Assumptions â€“ First the bad news, challenges to conventional wisdom will usually fail. Conventional wisdom became conventional wisdom because it usually works. But because it works does not mean it is the best way to achieve a result. Now the good news, when you find a piece of conventional wisdom that is incorrect you will be ahead or everyone else because they are still following conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom should be challenged to see if it still holds true.
Ric Merrifield in his book, Re-Think, points out we should understand the â€œwhatâ€ of a task rather than examining the â€œhow.â€ This allows us to better understand the assumptions we are making about the tasks we are doing. He gives an example of sending a fax. What are you really doing? What you are doing is communicating status or confirming an order. Once you understand the â€œwhatâ€ then you can question its value and optimize the â€œhowâ€ of what you are doing.
3. Expect and Allow for Failure – Challenging conventional wisdom and established assumptions will often lead to failure so an organization needs to allow for failure if it is going to encouraged innovation. Dr. Robert Goddard, the father of modern space flight said, â€œFailures are valuable negative information.â€ Since the vast majority of your innovation projects will fail you need an organization that can run multiple projects at the same time. Then move the talent off of the failed projects to those that show promise.
If the success rate is low then simple probability would state that the more innovation projects you start the greater the chance of having one that will be a winner. The odds of success of having 1 success out of 200 are much greater than having 1 success out of 10. So the question is how can you increase your chance of success without diluting your effort. The key is constant evaluation. If a project is not adding value to the organization or your customer then the project is terminated and resources are realigned.
Once the ideas are gathered they need to be evaluated. In order to control costs you have to be able to make decisions quickly this means being able to make go/no go decision without a lot of bureaucracy. Organizations need a lean decision making process to identify and cut loose the looser and invest in those ideas that will bring value. Projects or ideas are terminated rather than jettisoned because the project may contain value data or information to solve tomorrowâ€™s problem.
4. Provide a Fun Playful Environment â€“ There are two types of play. There is the playfulness that is simply practicing being creative. Then there is the type of play that is directed and has a purpose. The type of playing I am referring to is not the same as leisure. This is work. You are not going to golf course to relax and get some exercise. But it should be fun. The play needs to use your creative skills too, to allow you to re-learn the creativity you unlearned.
When you are practicing playfulness you are not trying to solve a problem it is simply developing the skills needed to be creative. It may be doodling, composing music, sculpting with clay or Legoâ€™s. Several years ago I saw how Cisco did a good job of this. In the lunch and break room they have a dish of Legoâ€™s on every table. In order to develop and maintain highly creative engineers they encouraged their engineers to be playful and be creative all the time. They provided Legoâ€™s for their engineers to play with during breaks and lunch.
Playing with a purpose is playing with the tools and materials you use in your trade to solve problems. It allows experimentation of different materials and tools to solve a specific problem. It is like a programmer getting a new piece of software and asking what happens if I do this? It is not the same as reading the manual. What you may discover may not be contained in the manual. It is not the analytical experimentation. It is playful, and fun. But it is directed at solving a problem the organization needs solved.
5. Encourage Innovation Teams â€“ Innovation teams are teams of dissimilar individuals. You will remember creativity is combining ideas that have not been combined previously. Also remember one way to allow ideas to be combined is to challenge assumptions. Since it is difficult to recognize your own assumptions putting together innovation team of dissimilar people allows problems to be viewed from different points of view. The accountant, engineer, and sales person all have different interests and capabilities and therefore see the problem differently. None of these view points are necessarily wrong. They are just different. It is all the same problem just viewed from different vantage points. Having a team of dissimilar people all working on a project also allows input from different departments early on and thus problems later on in the process can be over come earlier or, an idea can be terminated early on because does not solve a key part of the problem.
6. Evaluate for Value Added â€“ We are all aware of projects made it all the way to the market place only to see them fail and either sink or nearly sink an organization. The organization violated a key principle. It forgot it is the customer that determines rather or not value has been added. It does not matters if all the company executives believe this is a great project or how novel the technology is. It is the market place that is the ultimate test. At every step along the way the customer needs to be consulted and if the idea is not providing value the idea needs to be changed or terminated
Run cheap, quick tests to make sure you are on the right track. The first step could be running the idea back by a few customers to gauge their feedback. But donâ€™t over think these tests. Get enough feedback to hone the idea and mitigate risk/exposure of taking it to the next step.