For an organisation to maintain its competitive edge, encourage productivity amongst its teams and improve its brand appeal, innovation is key.
94% of those surveyed by the Center for Creative Leadership said that they see innovation as a critical factor for success. Yet only 14% were confident about their organisation’s ability to drive innovation effectively. And that’s the crux of the problem: innovation requires creativity, and creativity requires time and resources. The challenge for managers, therefore, is to create the right conditions to spark new ideas within their teams.
ESCP Business School Executive Education spoke with Pedro Gonzalo, a specialist in creativity, leadership and human resources, to identify the factors that foster creativity, understand how we can instil a culture of innovation, and implement successful creative management.
Affiliate Professorat ESCP Business School
You can read the complete interview in the latest Executive Education white paper, How to boost creativity and innovation in your teams on a daily basis. What follows is a summary of this conversation.
Before innovation, there must be creativity
Since creativity and innovation are closely related concepts, people tend to use them interchangeably. However, Pedro Gonzalo argues that they are two steps in a process which starts with creativity and ends with innovation. Simply put, “creativity is the ability to find new, original ideas to respond to a challenge, whereas innovation is the successful implementation of these ideas.”
While we tend to associate innovation and creativity with great thinkers and leaders like Leonardo Da Vinci and Steve Jobs, everyone can and should call upon these concepts on a daily basis. Inspiration and ideas can be sought out and originate from unexpected sources.
I cannot think of a single aspect of a company that could not benefit from a collective intelligence approach.
The cautionary tales of the Blackberries and Kodaks of the world are well known. Fail to innovate, and you’re doomed to fail. Even for niche markets, competition eventually catches up, forcing companies to constantly reinvent themselves to succeed and grow.
While innovative products that revolutionize consumer behaviour are a big part of this competitive landscape, the benefits of creativity go beyond a company’s service and product portfolio. To show how a company can use creativity to improve any aspect of its organisation, Pedro Gonzalo shared his experience with his creative workshop applied to human resources for the German group, TyssenKrupp.
“I helped [them] think about a new talent management policy to better identify and capitalise on the most innovative profiles within the organisation. I cannot think of a single aspect of a company that could not benefit from a collective intelligence approach.”
The quest for creative teams
The responsibility to be creative lies with everyone in an organisation, but to unleash this creative potential companies and their leaders must foster an environment and culture that encourages it.
Fortunately, there are methods, and tools managers can use to achieve this objective. Pedro Gonzalo shares the four main principles that, when applied, allow for the presence of creativity and innovation: develop creative confidence, experiment based on a user-centric approach, connect ideas, and finally, connect people.
Another key to unlocking creativity in the workplace is giving employees the ability to test new solutions. Pedro Gonzalo argues that “experimenting is crucial, which means that managers must not only accept, but encourage their teams to make mistakes while setting a boundary to ensure that the risks taken are reasonable.”
Giving teams the space to fail responsibly also means committing “to a clear vision of the challenges ahead and sharing it with everyone.” Managers’ lack of creativity can be overcome if they are able to create the conditions for innovation.
To read more about the four principles that foster creativity, download the white paper
Believing is half the battle
Just because the principles of creativity are easy to understand, it doesn’t mean that they are easy to put into practice. In order for a company to establish a culture of innovation, managers and their teams must believe in this culture, devote time to it and be ready to make mistakes, shake up the status quo and open their minds to new ideas.
And even before all that, they must have a clear vision of the challenges to overcome in order to guide this creative process. Of course, strong support for this process from the top management is also a key factor for success.
The good news is that none of that is impossible. It is even within everyone’s reach when there is a real drive to make it happen. Simply put, based on the various principles described above, the first condition for making your company creative and innovative is believing that you can do it!