Creating an Environment for Innovation – Part one: Creative Atmosphere
A creative atmosphere fosters innovation. This is a cultural matter you must encourage and nurture, but it is not as simple as flipping a switch. One must set an environment that encourages people to think in unusual and creative ways. This is not easy to accomplish when much of business is, by definition, so structured and orderly in its processes. Business needs to have somewhat standardized routines for much of what it needs to accomplish. Innovation, on the other hand, requires thinking out of the ordinary. These two are so different that in order to have effective innovation, care must be taken to encourage unconventional thinking.
Who is responsible for setting up a creative atmosphere for effective innovation?
Ultimately, the CEO and top management team must create the environment. They are responsible for establishing a vision (strategy) which embraces innovation. For too many companies, vision or strategy is underrated. Without a vision of where the company is going, often there can be limited success in innovation. Therefore, management must create the challenge, the inspiration to push people to stretch, to make the current box bigger. At the same time, however, it must be realistic. For example, a caterpillar can become a butterfly, but not an eagle. Furthermore, the CEO must create employee excitement and passion, not just measure employee satisfaction or financial performance. Clearly, if one defines the company as more of the same, that’s all one gets.
In First Grade, when he asked the question, “Are there any artists here?” he got an overwhelming response
In Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Gordon MacKenzie, tells of an artist who showed grade school students how to do different kinds of art. His experience is telling: In First Grade, when he asked the question, “Are there any artists here?” he got an overwhelming response. Initially, almost all the kids enthusiastically put up their hands, eagerly wanting to be recognized as artists. Though by Second Grade, the response was uniformly around 50% of the class putting their hands up. Finally, by third Grade the response was only about 10 out of 30 kids who put up their hands.
In his analysis, the author reasoned that the kids who did not put up their hands had become “normalized”
Ultimately, they had learned to think in an acceptable way, and no longer considered themselves to be out of the ordinary. In their view, someone who was considered to be an artist was not someone who was normal. Clearly, in the last century we have lost some of the spark of creativity and spontaneity that we had as kids. Therefore, bringing your company back into the realm of allowing spontaneity and encouraging creativity will be a big challenge. There are many thought exercises and processes which will help relax inhibitions and foster creativity.
Note: This is the first post in a series of posts from Dana Baldwin’s article Creating an Environment for Innovation originally posted in Compass Points. The next post will discuss how internal communication can encourage innovation.
Does your organization foster a creative atmosphere that encourages innovation? Attend the Simplified Strategic Planning Seminar to learn more about this and other aspects of Simplified Strategic Planning.
M. Dana Baldwin is a Senior Consultant with Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc. He can be reached by email at: email@example.com
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