You’ve Proclaimed Creativity a Company Value, Now What?
By Tony Vengrove This post is adapted from an article originally published on Values Based Leader. “We have to innovate or die!” It seems...
Since 2012, we have championed Creative Leadership as the "missing link" in corporate innovation. As Warren Bennis once said, "There are two ways of being creative. One can sing or dance. Or one can create the environment in which singers and dancers flourish." Using our Idea Climate Equation® and Seven C's of Creative Leadership frameworks, we help leaders and organizations learn how to create the conditions for creativity to flourish, allowing sparks of ideas to transform into polished diamonds. Frustrated with your organization's innovation track record? We can help!
"After spending more than 20 years in global advertising agencies and F500 marketing & innovation roles, I had an epiphany about why corporate culture is not always conducive to fresh thinking and new ideas. My epiphany materialized into the Idea Climate Equation®, which visually represents how key innovation variables interact with each other. Many companies and senior leaders have enjoyed success by embracing logic and analytical thinking -- many have little experience leading creative teams. Each variable in the equation is critical, but balance is key. As an idea journeys through the stage & gate process, each variable fluctuates in relevance. You don't want to bombard a new idea with too much logic and doubt early on, it will suffocate it. Similarly, you don't want to flex belief too much when deciding if your new product is ready to launch--you can't will a product to success. Successful Creative Leaders understand these dynamics and lead to inspire teams and protect ideas from the doubters." - Tony Vengrove, Principal
The Idea Climate Equation® suggests that to foster a creative culture, it is important to become conscious of four dynamic variables that are present within an organization and to understand their relationship to the innovation process.
Creativity: The fuel for innovation is ample creativity and ideas. An organization needs to promote fresh thinking and be cognizant of behaviors that quickly shut down creative engagement.
Logic: The nemesis of creativity is logic. Logic takes the form of analytical thinking, data examination and organizational processes – anything rationally based. Logic is important, but the key is to refrain from bombarding ideas with too much of it, too early in the process.
Belief: A firm’s vision, along with the executive team’s commitment to championing it across the enterprise, is a key driver of belief. Great vision statements also inform the innovation agenda, so those charged with developing future businesses understand what it is they are trying to build. Belief is an exponential variable in the equation because its presence has the power to catalyze creativity and stakeholder engagement.
Doubt: When individuals doubt an idea, they will use logic to build a case as to why the idea is not worthy. In addition, doubters tend to abuse the role of “Devil’s Advocate” by exaggerating worst-case scenarios that eventually create enough doubt to halt the idea. Doubt is an exponential variable as it commands great potential to squash creativity and engagement.
Learn more about how we incoporate the Idea Climate Equation® in our work.
A company's culture lives in the shadow of its leaders. The role of a creative leader is to lead by example and demonstrate the values which enable a creative and innovative culture to thrive.
Our Seven C's of Creative Leadership Framework represents the footing of our leadership workshops and coaching programs.
An effective Creative Leader must be a strong communicator. The foundation of your innovation journey should be visionary communication that focuses employees on goals, deliverables and inspires them to think proactively about new solutions. There are three important components of communication that Creative Leaders should address: Vision, Feedback and Informal Engagement.
We believe Curiosity has the ability to trickle down the organization. When senior leaders demonstrate inquisitiveness and ask “Why?” often enough, employees will start to dig deeper themselves in anticipation of questioning. Creative Leaders are naturally curious and willing to search for deeper understanding before making a judgement call. In addition, curiosity and asking “Why?” are effective antidotes to roadblocks put up by those who favor the status quo.
While Creative Leaders may enjoy the act of being creative, they understand it is not their job to come up with all the ideas. Warren Bennis once said, “There are two ways of being creative. One can sing and dance. Or one can create an environment in which singers and dancers can flourish.” The Creative Leader understands their job is to create the conditions for their innovation teams to flourish. They’ll spend much effort to create a culture of creativity by demonstrating the good habits they want to see in others. A big component of the latter is respecting the creative process which, unlike most corporate processes, is rarely predictable.
The odds of developing novel ideas and solving tough problems increase when creative minds are connected together. This is a core task of the Creative Leader and is critical to helping build and shape ideas. It also gets diverse groups collaborating and breaks down organizational silos. The concept of connecting is applied both internally (connecting organizational resources or skills) and externally (connecting teams to thought-leaders or experts in other industries). Many stories of the inventive lone genius are myths — most breakthrough innovations happen as a result of collaboration and borrowing existing technologies from outside industries.
Creative Leaders have their finger on the pulse of their organization’s culture. They realize that innovation and new ideas can feel threatening to some. Cultural changes are never easy and virtually impossible to achieve as a lone individual. Influencing culture, therefore, requires a level of pragmatism and emotional intelligence to navigate successfully. Edgar Schein describes organizational culture as being shaped by the prior behaviors and decisions of leaders. If we hold this to be true, then Creative Leaders can best influence culture by demonstrating the ideal behaviors they want to see when it comes to creativity and innovation.
6. Change Management
All innovation involves change of some degree. Whether it’s a radical innovation that renders an existing line of business irrelevant or an incremental product innovation that alters a manufacturing process, Creative Leaders are conscious of the impact their ideas will have on the broader organization. This awareness helps to sell ideas as they can address potential resistance before skeptics convince key decision makers that “it can’t be done.” In addition, their deeper understanding allows them to offer solutions and pathways to feasibility that can allay potential concerns.
Courage may be the attribute that separates the good from the great. Creativity and innovation always involve some level of risk because novel ideas are unique and difficult to quantify in their infancy. While this perspective of creative courage is well-known, there is another aspect that is particularly important for successful Creative Leaders: they have the courage to protect ideas over themselves.
An idea has no voice. It is simply a mental concept manifested by the imagination of an individual or team. Most ideas are not born fully-formed and thus can look brilliant to some and absurd to others. Seasoned Creative Leaders seem to develop a sixth sense that helps them discern which ideas have potential so that they can incubate them long enough to determine their value. Sometimes, this means sticking their neck out and fighting for extra time, or pushing back and refusing to move up milestones.
The Creative Leader knows that if they don’t demonstrate their passion for an idea, or worse, they cave too quickly in front of senior management, they’ll lose their credibility. Yes, it takes courage to stand up for what you believe, especially when you feel like a salmon swimming against the current. But, it’s much easier to defend your position when you’re standing on solid strategic ground. So when picking your battles, defend the ideas that have a strong strategic case with direct linkage to key corporate objectives.