Get innovative, goddamit!

It is a common refrain from business leaders – the need to be more “creative”, more “innovative” and to look at opportunities that explore beyond the present. “If we do what we’ve always done, well get what we’ve always got” is the refrain that echoes around multiple boardrooms.

And of course, this is both true and false at the same time. The motivation for making the statement in the first place is that doing what has always been done is no longer providing what has always been got. Otherwise, why change? The very issue is that external factors are creating moments that the business can no longer navigate – hence the need to think again.

What’s tough in these circumstances is that often the organisation is so hard wired, that no matter how many times someone shouts “CREATIVITY” or “INNOVATION”, no matter how positive the intent, there is a seeming inability to deliver against that good intention.

What’s wrong? Do we need to get a new type of person? Bring in some really “BIG thinkers”?

What are the chances that you’ve hired an entire workforce that is unable to think differently? What are the chances that there is not a single innovative bone in the collective body? That you’re institutionally bereft of creativity?

My guess is, that in those very organisations you have artists, musicians, writers, dancers, poets and sculptures. My guess is that at the very moment they leave your organisation for the day, they’re starting to display the very traits that you as an organisation are yearning for.

So what are the chances, that you’re trying to tackle lies within the corporate form rather than in the employee body?

Much of how we’ve structured organisations is to develop conformity, replication and rule following. Some people portray this as a negative, it isn’t. It’s just a thing. So if we want to change the behaviour, we need to also change the rules of the game. If you’ve never asked for a creative idea, why do you think one will come just when you think it should? If you process employees and value conformity and obedience, why will people think and act differently?

Creating the environment for people to express and develop their ideas, means creating the environment, not just artificial moments. If we want to unlock the innate skills and abilities that exist within our businesses, we’ve got to ask ourselves what closed them off in the first place.