Imaginative and inventive thinking is ever more vital in a climate where computerisation and robotics are increasingly dominating our industries, writes Eric J McNulty for Strategy+Business.
While robots are taking on the “dirty, dull and dangerous” tasks we have rejected, the complex creativity exclusive to humans is gaining value.
But what does creativity mean in today’s world and how can you encourage and harness it?
WHAT DOES CREATIVITY MEAN?
The modern definition is not simply about being visually artistic or free spirited. It can mean different things in different situations, and it’s up to leaders to refine it and direct it towards specific tasks and roles.
“Just telling people to ‘be more creative’ without further definition can be frustrating for all concerned,” he writes. “Today, creativity can range from a blank canvas (the ability to think way outside the box) to tightly bounded (the skill of solving within fixed parameters).”
FOUR WAYS TO INSPIRE CREATIVITY
Here are McNulty’s four golden rules to help you get the best creative thinking, logical reasoning and problem sensitivity out of your teams:
1) Set the right boundaries. Bill Hartman, head of the innovation strategy team at consultancy Essential Design, advises leaders to be clear about the framework of a project, but give employees a free rein on how they achieve the desired end product or service. This “helps keep people on track and moving forward with clear direction”.
2) Encourage a culture that promotes creativity. This will be different for every workplace, but it’s not about putting fish tanks or football machines in the office. Samir Kapuria, general manager of Symantec’s cybersecurity services, encourages creative thinking by setting up immersive simulation experiences to kickstart innovative thinking. And he drives creativity by rewarding risk-takers and “celebrating those who are willing to push their thinking to secure the digital economy”.
3) Establish when spontaneity is acceptable. Some approaches to a project will be set in stone. Decide which others could most benefit from alternative thinking. Wine-maker Jake Hakes’s yield is governed by variables, like the weather. Rather than struggle for consistency of product where none was guaranteed, he used creative thought to embrace the notion of “vintage variability” and make the individuality of each year’s wines a bonus for customers, rather than a failure for the company.
4) Leave time for incubation. Creativity can’t be forced, says coach Julie Daley. “When you get adamant about outcomes, you exit creativity. You have to step away from the problem for a bit. That’s often when the ‘aha’ moment comes.” Davey advocates thinking long and hard about the question, allowing creative answers to come.
Leading your employees into an alternatively creative era is both exciting and challenging. It also promises to make their jobs less predictable and more satisfying. It just takes some preparation to enable the best and most imaginative contributions to emerge.