Where does Creativity happen?

Inspiring meetingsThis is a question that often passes our lips. Where does Creativity happen then? One possible answer is ‘everywhere and anywhere’ but really the original question ought to be better framed. For instance are we talking about where creative activities might take place within an organisation? Maybe we are talking about the mechanisms by which individuals might come up with creative ideas or which parts of the human brain are being used?

So I shall try to shine a light on both of these areas.

Traditionally Creativity would have been found in areas such as Marketing or Product Development, or rather that is where you would have been told to find it and where employees would have been given permission to be creative. In fact Creativity can be found (and always could be found) in all parts of an organisation. The big difference is that now we know that all employees can be creative independent of their job function. This means that in order to tap into this creativity the mechanisms that are used to capture and recognise ideas must have a greater reach.

There are also issues of permission and the ability to handle ambiguity for those in management positions. Things are no longer confined to neat boxes.

But where does creativity happen for individuals? The actual ideas are formed in our heads (the easy bit) and then we have to externalise them somehow (often the hard bit). We can be creative anywhere but creative situations fall into a small number of categories. We are often creative when faced with adversity or tight deadlines. However, over do the challenges and we often give up. The right amount of pressure is critical.

Creativity is often found where there is some sort of tension (not necessarily war like tension). People with varying backgrounds and opinions will often create the right atmosphere as long as they can respect the viewpoints of others.

We can be creative individually but often need to dream or daydream. Either that or distract the part of our brains that screams ‘no you can’t do that so that the creative part of your brain can have a party.

These are only my opinions. It does not really matter where creativity happens just as long as it does.

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Can Innovation be measured?

Innovation MeasurementThe answer is of course yes! The problem comes when your definition of Innovation and mine do not coincide!

Many people will trot out a list of KPIs that are just modified version of standard production/manufacturing indicators. These could include number of ideas generated, number of ideas actually turned into products, time from conception to production etc.

What I am interested in is the behavioural aspects. What actually is there that will allow a business to innovate? Its a bit like the voltage in a battery. The battery may not be doing any work if its not inserted into a device, but what is its potential to do some work? How can you measure the potential of your organisation to innovate?

For details of the Innovation Equation you can visit my website or send an enquiry and ask for details of Innovation Measurement. In a nutshell, the Innovation Equation is a model, the components of which are Innovation Output, Creativity, Knowledge and Maturity. These can be assessed via surveys to give a detailed picture of the organisation.

Surveys can be taken with demographics recorded such as location, function, job description etc. The resulting data will allow scarce resources to be targetted at the appropriate parts of the organisation rather than trying to pass every employee through an Innovation Programme. You will also find out where the barriers are.

Results are given via an easy to read target diagram and a colour coded traffic light system. More detail is there if you wish to have it.

 

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Lessons from Hannibal the Innovator

Hannibal the innovatorManagement gurus often use The Art of War (written by Sun Tzu, published 5th Century BC) as an example of Leadership or to extract valuable Leadership lessons. Well are there any ancient texts, or at least people that we can learn from regarding how to be an Innovator?

Well I’m not sure about texts and I’m pretty sure that the word ‘Innovation’ was not around at the time (Hannibal lived 247-182 BC), however Hannibal did some pretty amazing things with the resources that he had available. You can read all about his exploits. Just Google the fellow, but a brief summary of his exploits provides some useful insights for innovators.

First of all Hannibal used an entirely new tool within his marketplace. He had at his disposal a number of highly trained elephants that could strike fear into his enemies (they made an incredible noise and had sharpened tusks) and upon which could be mounted soldiers. In effect these were ancient battle tanks.

Apart from his elephants, Hannibal chose to come at his enemy (competitors) from a completely new and unexpected direction. Although it was cold and very dangerous, he took his army across the Alps and shocked his enemy by ending up in northern Italy without using the normal route. Why not take a leaf out of Hannibal’s book and take a different route to your customers, one that is more direct and more effective than your competitors?

Like most modern businessmen, Hannibal was an astute strategist and tactician. He managed to forge alliances (how much networking do you do?) and manage his supply chain exceedingly well (he supplied his vast armies whilst a long way from home for some considerable time).  He also walked the talk, actually leading his armies across the Alps not just directing them from afar.

In summary Hannibal teaches us:

  1. To develop new products, services and business tools to keep us ahead of the competition
  2. To find new ways of getting to our customers that might bypass the cometition
  3. To network effectively
  4. To roll our sleeves up and get stuck in
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Creativity And Chaos

Chaos and creativityAccording to an anonymous quote I read recently “Chaos is not merely a mindless jiggling, it’s a subtle form of order”. Chaos theory is closely linked to creativity so I will provide a brief introduction. In reality there is no chaos, just different levels of order!

There are some fundamental concepts which I first need to point out:

  • The key for us to perceive or observe order is perspective
  • There can be order in apparent randomness
  • It only takes a very small change to move from a chaotic system into an ordered one and vice versa. Such events have been labelled as a ‘strange attractor’.

Imagine you are inside a system which appears chaotic, for instance an atom. You will observe electrons whizzing around your head like insects in a random fashion. Step up a level and you will notice that everything appears more ordered. If you step up to the molecular, you should notice that things will appear more ordered still.

In science lessons at school we have all observed Brownian motion. Here molecules apparently move in a random fashion when heated. Later we discovered that they conformed to a mathematical formula after our teachers conducted a random walk experiment.

It seems that if we can attain a high enough vantage point then we can indeed ‘separate the wood from the trees’. Slip low down and once again we become lost in chaos.

How can we make use of this knowledge within our organisations and businesses? Well layers of hierarchy do remove those at the top from the apparent chaos. At each level those within the organisation must learn to recognise the patterns of the adjacent level.

Insert too many layers and you cannot see what is happening, and if we insert too few will result in brains frazzled by complexity. For an organisation the implications are profound. To improve the performance of an organisation we must do a little pruning. We must remove some of the layers that build up over time that merely act as sticking plasters.

Too many attempts to interpret or understand is a little like Chinese Whispers, and then to make sure we have it right we begin writing everything down as procedures and red tape takes over. We then restore order, but we may lose creativity forever.

We must learn to walk that fine line between complexity and order that allows us to both implement a strategy and make use of chaos at the same time.

This is the key principle of the creative organisation.

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Professional or Amateur, which are YOU?

Are you amateur or professionalHere are some thoughts on the differences between professionals and amateurs. If you do whatever you do as a business then you really should be acting like a professional even if you are currently not making enough money as you would like! These tips have been borrowed from well known writer and trainer Jeff Goins and modified slightly.

Please feel free to agree or disagree.

Amateurs wait for clarity but Professionals take action

You have to know who you are before you can work out what you want to do. If you want to be an artist then call yourself an artist and then perfect your skills, don’t wait for someone else to label you as an artist.

Amateurs want to arrive but Professionals want to get better

You need to become a student long before you get to be a master. You need to be around people who know, and allow yourself to be taught by those people. If not then you will delude yourself that you are better than you actually are!

Amateurs practise as much as they have to but Professionals never stop

You may need to practise even when it hurts. Its not enough to just turn up each day, you must challenge yourself. It is also said that frequency beats quantity so practise regularly not for long periods with long breaks in between.

Amateurs leap for their dreams but Professional build bridges

You have to build a bridge not just jump into the unknown. Work is a marathon not a sprint and you need to take time to get to where you are going. People often say ‘stick at it’ but what is the ‘it’. It is the person i.e. you not the thing that you are actually trying to do. This mat change over time.

Amateurs fear failure but Professional embrace it

You need to learn from your failures. Some talk about failing frequently. In an ideal world we would not fail, we would simply make the best choices on our way through life. However most of us will fail at something at some poitn in time. Be ready to learn from it and move on, it is not the end of the world.

Amateurs learn a skill but Professionals create a portfolio

You should master more than one skill. This is not a call to be a jack of all trades but rather to be a master of some (not one or none!). If you work on your own you will be a skilled person (say a mechanic) but you may also be a master of marketing (getting work in) or sales (selling more to your customers). The more skills you can master the more flexible your business can be and the more opportunities you will be able to take.

Amateurs want to be noticed but Professional want to be remembered

You must worry more about legacy then ego. Don’t think about the quick win but think about where your business is heading. Are you working towards your next book deal, speaking at a big trade conference or perhaps looking to take on a big fleet contract for your garage business? Look beyond today’s instant gratification and plan for long term success.

 

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