Oh no, not me; I’m not really the creative type.
I meet people who say they aren’t that sort of person – you know the “creative type,” and I get concerned for them. As I look around, I see that our economy favors people and businesses who see problems in new ways and who find novel ways to solve them. Who knew that people needed Recharge clothing to reduce fatigue and soreness after a workout?
Personally, I just feel bad for the “not creative type” people. Where is the fun in that? I want to tell them “Take that wool off your eyes and go knit a sweater!” We are all the creative type! It’s in our design, and our lives prove it out. We make up games, stories, rules, policies, computer programs, laws, and on and on.
According to a 2015 Accenture Survey, 96% of executives believe that innovation drives their company’s success. In that same year, Forbes magazine published a list of the world’s most innovative companies simply because innovation is such as powerful driver of business success.
Imagine for now that you are one of those executives, that you are serious about innovation and that you expect it from everyone in your company. What would you do to encourage innovation in your company? You could start by investing in your only creative resource – people.
Hire the Right People
Though we are all creative, some people are more naturally disposed to it than others. Two qualities in particular are consistently linked with highly creativity: intelligence and the personality trait “openness to experience.” So smarter and more open people tend to be more creative than others.
The implication is clear: hire smart, “open” people. That begs the question, “How can I reliably identify these people.” For that you would be wise to find a trained psychologist to help you find an appropriate test and a robust personality instrument. Even then, your lawyer is likely to counsel you against any form of intelligence tests since they are highly controversial and a bit tricky for most employers. That leaves you to focus on openness to experience (OE).
People high in OE are intellectually curious, prefer novelty, and seek adventure and variety. This trait, which as has also been called “intellect,” is readily assessed using personality measures, like the NEO-IR, and through well-structured behavioral interviews. So, it’s relatively easy to hire people based on OE. As a smart executive however, you know innovation doesn’t stem from just a few special people: everyone needs to bring their creativity to the table. Inciting change one new hire at a time just won’t work. It’s a good thing that everyone can learn skills that amplify their natural talent, and that’s where training comes in.
While we can’t fully explain intelligence or personality, we can observe pieces of them. Intelligence is observed in cognitive strategies that people use, and personality is observed in their patterns of behavior. Since psychologist have studied both intensively, we know that strategies known as “inhibiting,” “shifting” and “switching” enhance new idea generation, and that high OE people are prone to play, explore, experiment, and eschew conventional ideas. Those same strategies and behaviors can be transferred to others through training built into the innovation process. That’s why I am partnering with Ken Kinard, my WorkWise podcast cohost, to bring Creativity Labs programs to the world of business.
Our Creativity Labs Workshops teach teams strategies and tools that boost personal and team creativity. We rely heavily on experiential group learning techniques that promote personal experimentation, discovery, and feedback all of which stimulate novel ideas for improving your business.
For example we:
- teach practical strategies for exploring ideas, including the disparaged arts of dialogue and debate over controversial ideas. Proficiency in this form of communication enables honest, fruitful discussions, promotes trust, and results in more novel ideas.
- equip participants with feedback skills and guide them through creative team challenges, because teams have more creative power than individuals.
- apply “The Thinking Box” which is a useful and fun tool that deconstruct and recombine ideas in new ways. What’s more, it is an analytic tool that fits nicely into corporate culture, and that gives people the comfort to introduce this idea-building tool to others.
- Practice using several reflection tools that help people to employ updating to open their minds and refresh their beliefs and assumptions.
If you are that executive, then you know that the social environment is changing rapidly and that your company must adapt to it. The business climate so demands continual learning, creativity, innovation, and collaboration that they can no longer be relegated to the moldy pile of “best practices.” Instead, they must be exalted as values and become part of company culture.
Today, there is a lot less room for people and companies who limit innovation with faulty perceptions about creativity. Tomorrow, there will be still less room. That reality has led me to make some changes in my business over the last year.
How about you? Are you ready to get started on building a culture marked by creativity and innovation? If you are, we are ready to help you now. If not, we’ll be ready to help you later when you are ready.