You’ve Proclaimed Creativity a Company Value, Now What?

By Tony Vengrove

loft with drawing concept

This post is adapted from an article originally published on Values Based Leader.

“We have to innovate or die!” It seems every Chief Executive Officer has trumpeted a version of that tune in the last decade. It’s easy to stand before employees and confidently declare a commitment to innovate, until you realize it’s really a call to foster a creative culture. The problem, however, is that most executive leaders are used to outsourcing creative endeavors to external agencies.

The next logical step is to declare creativity a corporate value. But be aware, it’s no stroll in the park to instill the commitment in your employees so it becomes part of their DNA. Alas, though, creativity is fickle. It has a peculiar way of lurking in the shadows of the status quo; what sends it dashing away for shelter is often poor leadership.

Here are a few ways to lure it out of those shadows:

Embrace Creative Leadership as a core responsibility. Warren Bennis said, “There are two ways of being creative. One can sing or dance. Or one can create the conditions in which singers and dancers flourish.” Your assignment is to actualize the conditions for others to creatively flourish.

Take a moment to look at the equation below and ponder its implications.

ICE 2016

Most companies are addicted to logic, process, and systems thinking—it produces efficiency and predictability, the generator of consistent earnings. Too much left-brain thinking suffocates creativity. John Hunt in The Art of the Idea warns:

“If logic is introduced too early into an idea, it often kills it. That’s because it speaks with history on its side and all its received knowledge can make anything new seem foolish and impractical.”

There’s a natural tension between creativity and logic that will never cease to exist. You must cultivate a climate where ideas can sprout and take hold; you must diagnose the kind of thinking the situation calls for—too much logical thinking leads to an idea funeral.

Champion a vision to create belief. A great creative leader paints a picture of the desired future and ignites a bonfire of excitement for it. If the vision is lackluster, you must go back to the drawing board. There can’t be any doubt about your belief in the vision. When you believe, your employees will believe. And when they believe, an innovative army will storm the Bastille of Ideas. Without belief, you’re deader than Custer at Little Big Horn.

Empower employees via objectives. The military uses an approach called Commander’s Intent to empower subordinates to adapt and improvise in battle. You can employ a similar tactic by giving employees a clear objective, describing what success looks like, and then getting the hell out of the way. It’s false security to expedite problem solving by ordering solutions. When you challenge team members with objectives, you invite a bigger, collective brain to uncover superior solutions.

Master the art of listening. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Beware our subconscious mind—it hears a few words and leaps to a conclusion before all the facts burst forth. When employees present ideas, it’s vital to give them the gift of your full attention. Lock your inner-judge in a closet and throw away the key. If you have a hair-trigger, you risk demotivating those whom you’re relying upon to deliver the creative goods! Every idea has value, even if it’s only to inspire someone else to come up with a better one. Your job is to listen for potential and fan the sparks of opportunity into flames.

Live and breathe curiosity:  Curiosity begets creativity, which begets innovation. The most creative people I’ve ever met were the most curious, tinkerers. Look for inquisitive minds in your organization and give them freedom to explore and play. Reveal hidden truths and insights by asking, “Why is that?” Bring an infectious spirit of inquisitiveness to work. After all, how can anyone explore the unknown, the different, without curiosity?

Demonstrate the courage to let go. There’s no doubt about it: cultivating creativity takes tremendous courage. You have to feel comfortable pursuing opportunities without knowing exactly where things will wind up—all while reporting into superiors who want to know precisely where everything is going. When it’s decision time and big money is on the line, it’s tempting to hold onto the known quantity than braving the never-been-done-before. That kind of bravery distinguishes the great from the ordinary.

Gordon Mackenzie punctuates this point brilliantly:

“To be fully free to create, we must first find the courage and willingness to let go:

Let go of the strategies that have worked for us in the past…

Let go of our biases, the foundation of our illusions…

Let go of our grievances, the root source of our victimhood…

Let go of our so-often-denied fear of being found unlovable.

If you stop letting go, your creative spirit will pass out.”

The refusal to let go is the culmination of fear and pure stubbornness. Just because it worked before, doesn’t mean it’s the best solution now. Never allow pigheadedness to asphyxiate the creative spirit of your organization!

Honoring a commitment to creativity starts and ends with the senior leadership team. If you truly desire creativity as a value, then it’s time to start walking the talk. I know you can do it! Do you?

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Tony Vengrove, Founder & CEO

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

Our Recent Craft Spirits Work

By Tony Vengrove

In addition to the Innovation and Creative Leadership project work Miles Finch Innovation performs for clients up and down the east coast, we are proud of the marketing and branding engagements we have with CT-local startup businesses.

Over the past two years, we enjoyed participating in the emerging craft-spirits movement taking place in Connecticut. Here are some examples of our recent work.

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Litchfield Distillery, Litchfield, CT:

We are the agency of record for Litchfield Distillery. We partnered to develop their branding strategy and positioning, helped to create their “Batchers’ philosophy” and Spirit of Hard Work™ tagline, and designed all 10 of their bottle labels. We proudly continue our partnership today, providing marketing, promotional and PR support of their award-winning spirits.

 

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Mine Hill Distillery, Roxbury, CT:

We’re helping this new distillery get off the ground by designing their brand identity, logo and packaging labels. Mine Hill Distillery is located on the historic Roxbury Station property in Roxbury, CT and is chock full of interesting local history. Look for Mine Hill to start filling bottles and open the doors to their distillery in early 2017–the distillery is shaping up to be absolutely beautiful.

 

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Connecticut Spirits Trail:

The newly formed CT Spirits Trail is comprised of fine craft spirits makers from all parts of the state of Connecticut. We were thrilled to create the logo and look forward to visiting all the distilleries ourselves!

If you’re a CT-based business in need of brand identity and marketing support, we’d be happy to tell you more about our services. When it comes to marketing and branding, we choose to work with Connecticut businesses only. Our mission is to help local companies grow and succeed so they can create jobs and help our wonderful state rebound from its current economic condition.

For more information, please email Tony Vengrove at info@milesfinchinnovation.com or call at 860-799-7505.

Advocating Innovation on NYBERG

By Tony Vengrove

I had the pleasure of joining Ann Nyberg on her show to discuss innovation and the challenges facing our great state, Connecticut. There are many issues and opportunities to consider and we only scratched the surface. But, I’m encouraged by the amazing community of entrepreneurs and change agents that are collaborating to make a difference. Working together to build community and a bigger collective brain is the only way we’ll make a meaningful impact.

Ann is a true advocate for sharing the stories and work of innovators–it’s clear she cares about helping make a difference. I encourage you to sign up for her Network Connecticut newsletter or business directory.

Creative Writing On Demand

By Tony Vengrove

Boisterous Children

I recently had the pleasure of visiting downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania during the holiday break. This small city is worth getting to know. There is a great group of citizens, brimming with creative energy and passion, working hard to create a more vibrant community and economy.

During my walk, I rounded a corner and discovered the city’s creative energy on full display: I met Abigail Mott, a poet. She sat quietly by the edge of the street on a small chair in front of a folding table with a beautiful antique typewriter resting upon it. A paper sign, secured only by the weight of the typewriter, hung over the front edge of the table. It read, “Pick a Subject, Get a Poem.”

I was intrigued. I made a beeline and inquired about her story.

Abigail grew up in Lancaster and currently lives in Colorado. She was back home visiting for the holidays and set up shop just outside the busy Lancaster Market to engage the community with her poetry on-demand project.

I love stuff like this and immediately requested a poem. My topic: boisterous children. (I have three kids, two of which are 3-year-old twin toddlers.) She told me it takes about ten minutes to compose a poem.

Abigail inserted a small piece of typewriter paper into her machine. The paper itself was special–a beautiful cream color with a delicate quilt texture. She immediately began to type. There was no moment of deep contemplative thought or writer’s block; she dove right in. Click, click, click.Abigail Typing

I stepped away to give her some space. When she reached for her camera phone to snap a picture of her work I knew it was time to return. As I approached the table, the rest of my family, including my three kids, had caught up to me, just in time to hear Abigail read the poem herself.

I love it all. I love the poem. I love the simplicity of what she is doing. It’s brilliant.

It’s also a great reminder on this first Monday of 2016 that we’re all empowered to utilize our creative gifts and that we possess everything we need to start now. There’s no excuse to stall or complain about a lack of resources. Grab a simple pencil and paper (or an old typewriter), let go of that inner judge, and dive right in!

If you’re intrigued with Abigail’s work, be sure to check out her Tumblr and follow her on Twitter.

Wishing you all a very creative and innovative 2016. Happy New Year!

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.

The 2015 Post Worth Re-Reading

By Tony Vengrove

Raphael HernandezinKabul

As we approach the end of 2015 and look forward to a new year with a refreshed sense of optimism and hope, I’d like to invite you to re-read our favorite Miles Finch Innovation post of 2015. The post was guest written by Raphael Hernandez who recalled a poignant story from his tour of duty in Afghanistan. Raphael reflected on an encounter with Anwar, a 10-year-old boy he met while shopping in a crowded market on Kabul’s Chicken Street.

Raphael used the story to glean lessons about employee engagement and salesmanship. While the piece holds its own in this regard, it’s actually much more powerful when we consider the disconcerting events taking place across the globe. When we look at the story through the lens of increasing global conflict, we’re reminded of a simple remedy: the uplifting power of human connection.

There’s been so many tragic events during the past year with an equal amount of troubling trends that lay before us. Sadly, I fear things may get worse before they get better. The increasingly divisive nature of our national and global discourse is especially disconcerting. It seems many of us are separating into factions and digging into our philosophical trenches for the long haul.

Raphael’s piece reminds us that we can overcome stereotypes and labels with a simple hello. We can build community and friendships by asking questions and listening. We can create lasting friendships when we refrain from judgment. We can make the world better if we care enough to serve others before we cater to our own selfish needs. We can start by making eye contact and smiling.

Please read Raphael’s post, What a 10-Year-Old Boy From Kabul Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement, and take a few moments to reflect on what you will do in 2016 to connect, build community and make a positive difference–wherever you are. If so inclined, please share your ideas and thoughts below.

My personal reflection on Raphael’s story and the power of human connection brought me back to our Seven C’s of Creative Leadership–“Connecting” is one of the seven principles. As I considered all Seven C’s in context of this post, I realized they also serve as a great framework for driving change in the world.

So, here they are, re-written as a 2016 Call-to-Action for Change!

communcation1. Let’s commit to healthy COMMUNICATION. Let’s listen and understand before we speak and judge.

curiosity2. Let’s be CURIOUS about other people’s perspectives and traditions. Let’s understand the “Why” before we jump to conclusions and label things good or bad.

creativity3. Let’s be CREATIVE about finding solutions to problems. The “how things are done around here” mentally is slowing dying off. We’re empowered to utilize our miraculous creative powers to discover better ways to get things done.

connecting4. Let’s extend our hands and hearts to lift others up. It’s harder to hate someone when you’ve CONNECTED with them on a human level.

culture

5. Let’s embrace the diversity of all world CULTURES. It not only makes the world more interesting, it inspires creative connections that can unleash innovation.

change-management6.  Let’s commit to CHANGE. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and commentate on the state of affairs. It’s up to us to make a difference.

courage

7. Let’s have the COURAGE to walk to the talk or, as Raphael and his fellow Marines would say, “Let’s make it happen.”

And with that, it’s time to sing Auld Lang Syne and flip the calendar. Happy New Year!

Founder, Miles Finch Innovation LLC

Miles Finch Innovation helps companies navigate the messy territory of corporate innovation. We’re strategic thinking partners who can help you get unstuck and identify creative solutions to your toughest challenges. We also love to train and speak on the subject of Creative Leadership. Email us or call us at 860-799-7505 to learn how we can help you you unlock the creative potential of your employees.