Your newsletter on applied creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
Wednesday 7 March 2012
Hello and welcome to another issue of Report 103, your twice-monthly (or thereabouts) newsletter on creativity, imagination, ideas and innovation in business.
As always, if you have news about creativity, imagination, ideas, or innovation please feel free to forward it to me for potential inclusion in Report103. Your comments and feedback are also always welcome.
Information on unsubscribing, archives, reprinting articles, etc can be found at the end of this newsletter.
In this issue of Report 103
- The Nine Principal Rules of Creative Leadership
- New Video: Creativity and Leadership: the 3Cs
- On-Line Voting Gets Worse
- Employee Incentives Can Backfire
- Book Review: Embracing the New Era
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The Nine Principal Rules of Creative Leadership
Whether you are the CEO of a large organisation; the leader of a team or division within such an organisation; or the founder of a small company, creative leadership is critical to your innovation success. Innovation is the result of successfully implementing creative ideas. Moreover, the process from idea to implementation, of a breakthrough innovation, requires a great deal of creativity. And to achieve this, you need creative leadership. Let’s look at the nine principal rules.
1. It is not about your creativity. It is about your team’s creativity
Creative leadership has very little to do with your creativity and everything to do with your team’s creativity. If it was only about your creativity, you wouldn’t need a team would you? You are only one person. Your team (which might be your entire company) is many people. Tapping into the cumulative creativity of 10 or 100 or 1000 people will clearly result in better results than tapping into the creativity of one person, no matter how creative you are, and ignoring everyone else.
2. You do not need to be creative. But you need to understand creativity
Following from rule one, it is not necessary that you be a creative genius in order to be a creative leader. What is important is that you understand the creative process so that you can facilitate it for your team members. Of course if you are exceptionally creative, this is a good thing as it will set a good example to your team members. But if you are not highly creative, do not feel the need to pretend you are. Instead, you should trumpet your skills as one who facilitates creativity. This is, after all, far more important in a creative leader.
Sometimes you will have teams thrust upon you by circumstances. Sometimes you can choose your team members. When you can choose, go for diversity: diversity of experience, sex, culture, age, knowledge and skin colour. Include people whom you do not like if you know they get results. Diversity is important, but it is often neglected. We tend to like and get along best with other people who are similar to ourselves. As a result, we instinctively look for team members who are similar to ourselves. However, creativity is built upon diversity. A wider range of backgrounds, knowledge and culture results in a wider range of thinking and greater creativity. If you can add to your team people from other countries and distinct other cultures, kill to do so. Research has shown that people who have moved abroad are more creative than others. People from other cultures have seen more variety in their lives and can bring that variety to your team.
4. Identify strengths and weaknesses on your team
Once you have your diversified team, or have had a less than diverse team thrust upon you, you need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members in order to maximise effectiveness. Some people will be great with ideas but poor on implementation. Others are the opposite. Some people are big picture people who are sloppy with details. Others are obsessed with the details, but fail to see the big picture. Some people work better at solving problems on their own. Others work better in collaboration. By identifying strengths and weaknesses and taking advantage of them, you can be sure not only that your team is creative, but that it gets results that lead to innovation.
5. Trust your people
Micro-managers are never creative leaders. Never. Not once in all of history. Being a micro-manager implies you do not trust your people to make even simple decisions for themselves. Moreover, rather than promoting creativity, you become bogged down in trivial details. Instead, you need to trust your people. Give them clear goals, budgets and tools. But let them work out their own approaches towards achieving those goals. Even if you believe their approach is not the best, do not interfere. Let your people learn by trying. You may be surprised, their approach might work better than you expect. And if it does not, they may discover an alternative approach that is better than yours. After all, people do not learn by being told precisely what to do. They learn by researching, trying, making mistakes and trying again.
6. Embrace failure
Speaking of mistakes, if people cannot fail from time to time, they will never achieve great things. This is a cliché in the creativity and innovation business. Nevertheless, it is amazing how many managers still do not tolerate failure. As a creative leader, you know better. Encourage your people to try, fail early and try again. Ensure that they share their failure stories so everyone can learn from them.
7. Encourage debate
Your diverse team has diverse opinions and ideas. As a result, there will inevitably be disagreements. Rather than squelching these disagreements with the aim to avoid bad feelings, encourage team members to disagree with each other in the form of respectful debate. Debate enables team members see things from other perspectives, strengthen their ideas and rethink flawed ideas. Moreover, by anticipating criticism of ideas from within your team, you better prepare yourself to champion ideas to customers, stakeholders and others outside your team.
8. Champion ideas
Your creative team will doubtless generate many ideas. As the team leader, you need to champion those ideas. Sometimes you may even have to champion ideas that you do not like, but which you realise offer value to your organisation or to your customers. If you are a team leader within a larger business, you will need to champion ideas mostly within your company. If you run the company, you will need to champion ideas to your customers, to suppliers, to the public and possibly to regulatory authorities. By becoming a champion of your team’s ideas, you make it more likely that the ideas will be realised. More importantly, you demonstrate very clearly to your team that you believe in their ideas and that you are a champion of creativity. And when you champion an idea you are known to dislike, you impress people as being devoted to the team rather than yourself. This is a very powerful message.
9. Make ideas come true
Innovation is the implementation of creative ideas in order to generate value. Unfortunately, the path from a brilliant creative idea to an innovation is not always easy going. As a result, you need to define and establish processes for realising ideas. And you will need to take special care with highly creative or unusual ideas. These have the potential to become breakthrough innovations. But they are risky and, as such, scare many people silly – an emotion most people prefer to avoid at the workplace! You will need to envision the potential hurdles to implementing such ideas and find ways to get over these hurdles.
Creative Leadership Workshop
Do you want to train your managers in the Nine Principal Rules of Creative Leadership? If you do, contact me to discuss a one or two day interactive workshop that will include talks, exercises and group work that ensure your managers gain the know-how they need to become creative leaders. Contact me here.
New Video: Creativity and Leadership: the 3Cs
I have made another video on creativity. This time it is about creativity and leadership and focuses on the 3Cs, an approach leaders can and should use to motivate their teams to share and develop ideas. This is based on an article which first appeared here in Report 103 and a method I have shared in workshops several times.
You can watch the video here: http://www.creativejeffrey.com/creative/video_3cs.php.
Video Interview with Jeffrey: Innovation versus Vision
Margaret Manson, the Chief Inspirator of Innofuture, recently interviewed me about innovation versus vision. The interview cited my article "Innovation vs. Vision", albeit in greater detail, as well as my book, The Way of the Innovation Master. Because Margaret is located in Melbourne, Australia and I am in Erps-Kwerps, Belgium, the interview was conducted by video.
On-Line Voting Gets Worse
If you are a regular reader of Report 103, you will know that I despise on-line voting as an evaluation method in idea management, suggestion scheme and crowdsourcing applications. The reason for this dislike is simple enough: on-line voting does not work. It has been proven not to work at all. Yet, nearly every crowdsourcing, suggestion scheme and idea management software boasts on-line voting. To learn why on-line voting does not work, read “Voting in On-Line Suggestion Schemes" in the 7 July 2010 issue of Report 103. In a nutshell, however, the problem is that in a crowdsourcing application, for example, the first people who vote for ideas create a precedent that others follow. Hence the ideas that get the first votes become the most popular, irrespective of their actual quality. Later, visitors lack time to review all ideas, so they simply look at the ideas with the most votes. Most crowdsourcing applications make that easy to do. So, not only does voting fail to identify creative ideas, but it discourages users of the system from seeing creative ideas!
This is bad enough. But it seems to be getting worse. If you participate on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, you have doubtless seen scenarios like this. A friend announces on Facebook that her daughter has entered a video in a competition. She then asks all of her friends to vote for her daughter’s video so that she stands a greater chance of winning the competition. Within moments, her friends comment “Done”. Based on the speed of those comments, you can safely surmise that the friends did not read the competition rules or look at any other entries.
Bad for Children
As a result, competitions that should be about talent, skill or creativity become popularity contests. Not only is that not fair, it’s not good for the daughter in this example. Think about it. Imagine your child, whom you doubtless hope grows up to become a creative thinker who uses her creativity and ingenuity to solve problems, enters an on-line science project competition.
What are you telling her when you ask all of your friends to vote for her and she wins? You are telling your child: “it’s not about your creativity. It’s not about your ingenuity. It’s not about your hard work. It is about mummy’s/daddy’s network of friends.” If your children grow up expecting Mummy and Daddy to solve problems through popularity, they will never learn to solve problems through creativity.
Bad for Innovation
Assuming people do the same thing with idea crowdsourcing and suggestion scheme applications, voting becomes even less reliable and more demotivating. Creative people who do not have a lot of on-line friends (or a big network inside the company) or who are too proud to ask friends to vote for their ideas, will understand that the suggestion scheme is not about innovation, it is about reaffirming popularity. The won’t even bother to waste their time submitting ideas.
What can and should you do about it? Firstly, if you are responsible for idea management or crowdsourcing in your organisation, disable voting. Doing so is a highly cost effective method for improving the level of creativity in ideas submitted.
Secondly, do not ask people to vote for your entries in on-line competitions and refuse to vote for friends’ entries.
Lastly, and most importantly, do not ask people to vote for your children’s entries in on-line competitions. And if your children ask you to do so, explain simply: “I would rather you are judged by your talent and hard work than by how many friends I have. And I will be 100 times prouder of you for trying hard and losing to someone whose parents cheated for her than you for winning because I cheated for you.”
Book Review: Embracing the New Era
Embracing the New Era, by Dr. André P. Walton, is a short, yet wide ranging book on managing yourself and others in what he calls the “Era of Creativity”. As he states in the introduction,
Creativity is not just the arena of a small number of ‘special’ people. The enlightened organisation of the future will tap into this resource in every employee as well as other stakeholders. Ideas come from customers, employees (who are also consumers), the community and advisors. It is only when all these resources have been tapped that we can say our organisation is optimised from an idea generation perspective; a perspective that will be increasingly critical to survival.
Embracing the New Era covers a lot of territory in its 90 pages. André’s approach is to pick key issues and cover them in some depth. The reader who wants to know more about a particular issue will appreciated the substantial bibliography at the end of the book.
Embracing the New Era is an ideal book for the manager looking for a quick and informed book on managing for creativity and innovation.
You can order the book from Amazon: Embracing the New Era: Managing oneself and others into the era of creativity
How Employee Incentives Can Backfire
If you are running any kind of innovation initiative in your company, you are probably using some kind of incentive scheme to go with it. Watch out, incentives are remarkably counter-intuitive and can destroy an otherwise good initiative. This article by Dave Logan explains in more detail:
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