Leader as Conductor: Orchestrating the Creative Genius Throughout the OrganizationReply
As discussed in previous posts, it is commonly held that there is creative genius in each of us. But, along with our innate curiosity (creativity’s inextricable partner) most of us found our creativity repressed by the tender age of thirteen by the pressure to “fit in,” not be seen as “weird,” [i] not ask too many questions, and as we got older, to go by “The Rules,” and do as we’re told if we want to succeed. I wholeheartedly agree with Langdon Morris of InnovationLabs who wrote that “It may only take only the right mix of context, curiosity, support, and environment for it come abundantly forth.” [ii]
And so, smart managers understand that good ideas come from everywhere in organizations. “Hence, the average Toyota worker, including those on the assembly lines, is said to contribute on average more than one hundred ideas each year.” Despite some of its recent troubles (and current tragedies in its homeland), Toyota is universally recognized as the most efficient auto manufacturer on the planet.[iii]
Gathering and Channeling the Collective Genius:
Referring back to the top layer of the cake as described in “Let Them Eat Cake!” a couple of posts ago, below are some suggestions I have found for creating an entrepreneurial environment throughout the organization, as recommended by the innovation leaders surveyed in the 2010 IBM CEO report. [iv]
Use cross-departmental input to create a shared language and lexicon. (Jorge Barba) [v]
Go beyond the mission and vision to make innovation the responsibility of each and every employee (“50 Ways…”) [vi]
Involve as many people as you can at the beginning to get upfront buy-in. (“50 Ways…)
Co-create A Vision for Innovation with Everyone in Your Organization:
Help employees to present their ideas and make their cases:
- Establish an Entrepreneurial Environment: Ideas come from everywhere. Give every “intrepreneur’s” idea an objective hearing. Provide management support in building the business case* in presenting the idea. (“10 Crucial Elements…,” Jim Miller) [vii]
* I discussed this point in my 2/12/11 post on "A Shared Failure to Communicate".
- Ask employees what gets in the way of their ability to offer contribute creative solutions and innovation, and work to remove those blocks.
- Create formal opportunities for offering ideas: Intranet repositories using an idea
management software, internal conferences, etc. (“10 Crucial Elements of Building an Innovative Company,” Jim Miller & “”50 Ideas…, “)
Embrace the Numbers Game:
- “…Harness everyone’s creativity by involving them in the ideation process; generate lots of ideas, for only a few winners will result, and then broadening your view of innovation to not just technological, products, or services, but also innovate the business model.” (Jorge Barba)
- Have a number of ideas in the works. Short and long-term, incremental, and discontinuous.
- “The main difference between companies who succeed at innovation and those who don’t isn’t their rate of success – it’s the fact that successful companies have a LOT of ideas, pilots, and product innovations in the pipeline.” (“50 Ways…”)
Create Efficient Systems for Low-Cost, Rapid Prototyping:
- “Fail often to succeed sooner.” Tom Kelley, GM IDEO.
- Prototype using videos and models or other quick and cheap methods early on to visualize which projects to further develop and which to discard. (“Get Creative,” Bloomberg Businessweek [viii] and “50 Ways…”)
Support Cross-departmental Collaboration:
- Reroute reporting lines and create physical spaces for collaboration. …collaboration requires more than lip-service to breaking down silos… team up people from across the org chart.
- ‘You have to…get down into the plumbing of the organization and align the nervous system of the company.” (J. Andrew, BCG) [ix]
- Provide “Skunkwork” spaces with visual tools like white boards everywhere, even on ceilings and floors. (“50 Ways…”)
- Encourage informal, cross-functional networking and exchange of ideas through shared space, social activities, etc. (“10 Crucial Elements…,” Jim Miller)
- “Innovation requires no fixed rules or templates – only guiding principles. Creating a more innovative culture is an organic and creative act… Don’t make your innovation processes so rigid that they get in the way of informal and spontaneous innovation efforts.” (“50 Ways…”)
I’ve only scratched the surface here regarding employee partnership in innovation. Please, share your ideas, experiences, and success stories!
[i] Get Weird! 101 Innovative Ways to Make Your Company a Great Place to Work, John Putzier. AMACOM, 2001.
[iii] “The World’s Most Innovative Companies,” Bloomberg Business Week. (April 24, 2007).
[vii] Jim Miller, “Ten Crucial Elements of Building an Innovative Company”
[viii] “Get Creative,” Bloomberg Businessweek
[ix] Boston Consulting Group, “Innovation 2010: A Return to Prominence and the Emergence of a New World Order”
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