More creative people is the largest factor in spurring innovation, according to this insightful GE Innovation Barometer 2012 infographic. Play with the chart and see what most spurs innovation in different global regions and countries. Yup. Creative people is almost twice as more important than any other dimension.
The rebels, the mavericks, the edgewalkers who see possibilities, and are the innovators companies need.
Where do you find more creative people to help your company grow? You most likely have the people, but you probably need to adjust your corporate culture and processes to allow them to be much more creative. Some ideas to consider. None require big budgets, just slightly different ways to work.
- Ask questions that light people's ideas. Ask your people one provocative question at the end of the week. Could be by email. Or at a kiosk outside the cafeteria or in the lobby. People love good questions and they want to be heard. As a leader you'll learn much about the organization and your people -- how to be a good servant leader, how to help them do more of what's working, how to create a feeling of pride and possibility. Good questions trigger creativity. To help spur creative thinking, do the heavy lifting of creating good questions that help people start thinking differently -- at all levels in in all departments. Some ideas:
- What went really well this week?
- What surprised you this week?
- What are you most proud of this week?
- Who deserves an "A" on our team this week?
- If this week were a song, what would it be?
- What else could we have done?
- What helped you?
- What did you learn?
- Put on the red cape (or grab a wand): It takes bravery to bring up topics no one else is yet talking about. It's scary to suggest new ideas. So as a leader, make it safe for people to suggest new ideas and to do things differently. Maybe occasionally wear a red superhero cape to show that you really value courage and fearlessness. Once as president of a company I walked into the Friday staff meeting not in my Giorgio Armani suit, but dressed up as a fairy queen, with crown and magic wand. Many years later I still have the wand. That one morning where I acted so out of character broke the ice during a challenging time. People loosened up, laughed, trusted and started to believe anything might be possible. Oh, and they all still talk about that day and what it meant.
- Put two chairs in your lobby. Four years ago I heard about a Midwest retailer that put two chairs in its lobby with a sign for "topic of the day." What the ???? But then people sat down, talked and talked about ideas that matter. Read here for more. I love social media and Skype but sometimes there's nothing like a friendly in-person conversation.
- No PowerPoint in meetings. Ever. Send those numbing slide ahead of time to be read. But when people get together, use that precious time to have conversations that invite all present to share ideas, connect as people in thinking and caring ways, and together talk about how you can do more of what your company does so well. (Note: talking about the positive e.g., doing more of what's great vs. solving problems, also creates a better environment for creativity.)
There's much more to share. But for now know that you have incredible potential in your organization. I see untapped magic and talent all the time. People are waiting to be invited to do more in more new ways. There's a creative, rebellious, optimistic energy in your organization wanting to go beyond business as usual. As leaders, help your repressed creative souls break free. It's the only way to innovate all the time, in small ways and big ways.
What one thing could you do next week to make your organization a more welcoming creative place?