There are significant challenges facing innovation in any organization.
People are taught to be cautious and to make “informed” decisions based on thorough and rigorous analysis. As a result the process tends to be long and arduous and faces numerous levels of scrutiny before a decision is finally reached. Paralysis by analysis often sets in and current business momentum is maintained. Nothing changes.
People are taught to avoid making mistakes. They witness how punishment is handed out to their colleagues and decide that risky actions have too much personal downside; they prefer the status quo. Nothing changes.
These powerful forces act against creativity in most organizations; here is my “formula” for letting the innovative juices flow:
1. Creativity = “How do we get there?”
If you know how to get from “A” to “B” the Creative Incentive Quotient – CIQ – is zero. On the other hand, if you have absolutely no idea how to reach your destination the CIQ is high.
Creativity is not spawned by applying analytical tools that draw upon historic performance to predict future results. Trend line thinking stultifies breakthrough action as it merely extends past performance with the expectation that the future will somehow mirror it.
Creativity is driven by declaring a goal without knowing exactly how it will be achieved and doing the hard entrepreneurial work to figure it out. It’s about having the intestinal fortitude to enter uncharted waters, pointing your ship in the general direction you want to go, and navigating – creating – as you go.
Creativity is killed by not wanting to go forward without knowing how the end goal will be achieved. I see people shut down when confronted with the objective of doubling revenue in 24 months because they don’t know how to do it. They stop, say the objective is “unrealistic” and adopt an uninspiring target that they think they can achieve. CIQ = 0. Creative juices don’t flow.
Creative juices flow more when the way to achieve the goal is unclear when you begin.
2. Creativity = “What do we have to do differently?”
Listen to the conversation that pervades most organizations today: “What is best in class doing?” is the driver of most activity. Benchmarking the leader of the pack and copying them absorbs everyone’s time and energy; yet even if you are successful you remain in the pack like everyone else.
Benchmarking is the tool of sameness. It does not get the creative juices flowing, and you won’t separate yourself from the pack. CIQ = low (some juice might flow as improvements are made based on others’ experience).
And if you don’t stand-out from the pack, what does your long term future look like? It goes like this: sameness = mediocrity = invisibility = irrelevance = dying = dead (sooner or later).
To be successful in the long run, CIQ MUST be high; creativity must force you out of the pack and make you relevant and unique.
Creativity is launched by asking these questions: “How can we BE DiFFERENT?”, “How can we BE CoNTRARIAN?”, “How can we go in the OpPOSITE direction to the leader of the pack?”.
The unknown and uniqueness are the drivers of creativity; what’s your CIQ?
(About the Author: Roy Osing (@RoyOsing) is a former executive vice-president and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience. He is a blogger, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.)