In this competitive business world, CEO’s, directors and senior managers are only too aware of the need for creativity and innovation, and original thinking to maintain their organization’s competitive edge. Innovation training courses and coaching sessions can be very effective, but in themselves they are rarely sufficient to develop sustainable innovative thinking. What managers are really looking for is an on-going stream of innovation, not a single flash-in-the-pan. For that there needs to be understanding that the business environment may need to change quite significantly.
Innovation requires two elements: creativity and application. Creativity does not come out of the blue, but depends upon a body of specific knowledge and expertise within the business’s sphere of operations. That knowledge requires training and experience, but the development of new and original ideas requires inspiration. The inspiration may be the product of necessity, direction, ‘nudges’ or thinking techniques. But fundamentally, creativity cannot be summoned to order. You cannot sit somebody down and say, ‘Come up with something good.’ Inspiration comes from people being motivated and enthusiastic; it comes from the right environment. When asked to train or coach staff in a company or department to be innovative or creative, we will often ask the organisation to take a step back and look at itself and the environment it has created. Often there is already a mass of creative energy already within the business, and all it needs is encouragement and direction.
There are many questions an organisation needs to ask of itself if it is to build a sustainable creative culture, but here are just a few:
- Are staff encouraged to take time to think rather than just ‘do’?
- Are people encouraged to run with their ideas, or do they first have to seek approval?
- Are staff allowed to make mistakes?
- Are concepts and ideas valued as much as hard facts?
- Are staff encouraged to talk, share and test ideas with colleagues?
- Do staff bring their managers problems or solutions?
And don’t forget to look at the physical environment – answer honestly, is it the sort of place where great ideas can be born? It’s amazing how moving around a few desks and chairs can dramatically improve the creative culture.