The Myths of Creativity and Innovation
If you are building your career, embrace the idea that you need to be more creative in order to solve problems and be innovative. If you are a manager, give people the right culture and environment and encourage creativity in whatever they do. Together, you might just build an innovative company.
The CreativityWorks Framework
Creating the spark for new ideas that can lead to new companies is much easier, especially if you follow the Creativity- Works Framework.
A Growth Mindset: The most critical component of the framework, a growth mindset, is also the one you control completely. Having this mindset is not just a question of having a positive attitude; it’s an outlook or internal belief that you are, can be, and will be creative. It is deeply personal, and it informs how you interact with your creativity from everyday work-related ideas to life-changing projects or goals. How you think and feel about creativity guides your life, and it empowers your professional success, your personal purpose, and your creative lifestyle.
Environment: Environment encapsulates the culture and leadership within an organization, whether it’s a Fortune 500 company or a startup. Culture is an organization’s shared values and beliefs. “Leadership,” as Peter Drucker says, “is not magnetic personality—that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’—that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” With good leadership, culture isn’t forced; it is fluid and constantly evolving in a positive way. Communication is open and frequent. Everyone understands the mission and goals of the organization, and everyone has input into how they can be attained. Employees feel that they are an important part of the company and that every job matters and everyone is respected within the company. Trust flows up and down the org chart, and everyone is focused on customers.
Habitat: You can’t really maximize the creativity in yourself unless you are in a physical space that promotes both the “creative feeling” and interactivity with other people. Creative spaces designed to promote these activities increase the likelihood of collisions—and the data repeatedly demonstrates that the more “employee” collisions you can create in a physical space, the more you create positive outcomes. We don’t measure the content of interactions, but that doesn’t matter. When collisions occur, regardless of their content, improvement typically follows. As the Harvard Business Review noted in an article on Pixar, Steve Jobs believed physical space mattered. He was adamant that restrooms, cafeterias, and meeting rooms be in central locations to increase the interaction “collisions” between designers, writers, animators, and production people. Of course, Pixar’s leaders embrace diverse and open teams, cross-collaboration, and openness to feedback; this company culture creates a sense of purpose that permeates the campus. Pixar’s habitat, though, is what enables leadership and culture to become manifested as wonderful movies.
Most brainstorming is ineffective because it does not start with a clearly defined problem, an alignment of the solutions objectives (as related to the problem), and a structured format with clear time limits. Well-designed brainstorming, however, can be very effective.
The CreativityWorks Framework can be a powerful mentality and process for you to use in your pursuit of creativity and innovation. But remember, the most important element in creativity and innovation is still the customer
Here are some simple tips that will help you learn more about your potential customers:
Observe them. Hang out where they are and watch what they do; learn how they interact and purchase products and services you are looking to improve.
Walk in the customer’s shoes. Behave like your customer. Buy your product or service or a competitor’s and see what the shopping experience is like. What did you learn from a customer perspective?
Talk to people closest to the customer. Can you talk to the people who service or sell to the customer? What problems do they see? What problems do they hear about from customers?
Be a mole. If you want to better understand or improve a product or service, then be your own “undercover boss” and learn what you don’t know. Do a “ride along” in the customer environment or, if you can, shadow or be an employee for a day in the customer environment.
Brainstorming Rules and Practices
The seven steps to effective brainstorming are:
- Agree on the problem.
- Gather the right team and the available data.
- If possible, break down the problem.
- Go for as many (quantity) ideas as possible.
- Don’t criticize as ideas are evaluated.
- Combine several ideas to create an amazing new idea.
- Fairly judge the created ideas for the best one that solves the problem.
Brainstorming Sessions Done right
Bring together a diverse team. This is a critical element to building a team that can think “differently” in looking at the same problem. Mix people with varied backgrounds and skill sets to get better possible approaches to a solution. A football team can’t win with eleven quarterbacks, so why would you put similar people on the same team?
Define and agree on the problem. When a team first comes together, share the “facts” on the problem and have the team thoroughly discuss and provide input as to the real cause of the problem. Employees who are taking sick days and missing work may be doing so because of health issues, not morale.
Discourage criticism but encourage wild ideas. The worst thing you can do in a brainstorming group is to critique or criticize initial ideas. Encourage open giving of ideas so that other people can react to a “creative” environment and share their “deep” ideas. Research into creativity and brainstorming sessions has shown that even in a good brainstorming environment, most participants still hold back 50 percent of their ideas for fear of being wrong.
When energy fades, build on the best idea. This is another reason the quantity of ideas or solutions is so important. Once you get to a place where the energy of the group fades, now you build on the best idea, which itself may end up being a combination of other ideas. Get the group focused now on designing and building the best solution.
Draw and sketch so that everyone can see the ideas. This is where you engage the right side of your brain. Drawing out the ideas allows people to process them with the “creative” side of their brain. This exercise will lead to even more creativity as people “see” what’s in front of them and begin to add even more ideas, which hopefully they share with the group.
If possible, create 2-D and 3-D models. There is nothing like the real thing or a prototype to have people really understand the potential of a solution. If possible, use a 3-D printer to create a mock-up of a product solution or, if it’s something larger, use Legos, Play-Doh, or construction paper to actually build a rough prototype of a possible solution.
SCAMPER Your Way to Innovation
One of the techniques that Alex Osborn liked to employ in his late-career brainstorming sessions was asking SCAMPER questions. He had observed that most new innovations were changes to something that already existed. Innovation does not have to be a radical departure from existing products or services. Often substantial improvements can be achieved with very subtle changes.
The acronym stands for (S)ubstitute, (C)ombine, (A)dapt, (M)aximize or minimize, (P)ut to other uses, (E)liminate, and (R)earrange or reverse.
- Substitute: What elements of this product or service can we substitute?
- Combine: How can we combine this product/service with other products or services?
- Adapt: What idea from elsewhere can we alter or adapt?
- Maximize or Minimize: How can we greatly enlarge or greatly reduce any component?
- Put to Other Uses: What completely different use can we have for our product?
- Eliminate: What elements of the product or service can be eliminated?
- Rearrange or Reverse: How can we rearrange the product or reverse the process?
If you were making eyeglasses, then you could substitute plastic lenses for glass (incremental innovation) or you could substitute contact lenses for spectacles (radical innovation). A cell phone was combined with a camera and then an MP3 player. The roll-on deodorant was an idea adapted from the ballpoint pen. Restaurants that offer all you can eat have maximized their proposition. A low-cost airline like Ryanair in Europe has minimized (or eliminated) many elements of service. De Beers put industrial diamonds to other use when it launched engagement rings. Dell Computers and Amazon eliminated the intermediary distributor or retailer and sold directly to the consumer. And McDonald’s rearranged the restaurant by getting customers to pay first and then eat.
Hopefully, after reading this book and adopting some of the beliefs and tools, you will heighten and sharpen your creativity skills. Let me remind you of the critical elements of being creative and perhaps innovative:
- A Growth Mindset: one that believes you should be learning for the rest of your life
- A Great Environment: one where leadership and culture fuel creativity
- An Amazing Habitat: being in a place where creativity is reflected, rewarded, and demonstrated every day
- Brainstorming Tools: sharpen your “creativity” by using these brainstorming tools
You are creative. Believe that and you will hopefully have an amazing career and life.