The results speak directly to the CEOs’ perceptions of the degree of complexity in today’s marketplace. Economic, environmental, political, and other forces affecting business can be overwhelming and are increasing. The ability to create new processes, business models, products, and services that flex with these challenges is essential to success.
In addition to creative leadership, the report states the areas that need the most attention for business success are ‘customer intimacy’ – getting close to the customer to co-create products, services and processes – and ‘operating dexterity’ – the ability to streamline operations and change business models in order to maximize opportunities. Both these areas require a creative mindset and culture throughout the organization.
This is the first time in this biannual study from IBM that creativity has been the most important leadership quality. According to the IBM 2010 Global Chief Executive Officer Study, “Traditional approaches to managing organizations need fresh ideas – ideas that challenge the status quo.”
The most successful companies today have challenged the status quo, and continue to do so. Here are a few ways that these organizations lead and foster creativity:
• Google encourages their employees to work on projects they are passionate about with their 20% policy – 20% of their work time can be devoted to projects that have been initiated by them or their fellow employees.
• 3M has their “bootlegging policy”, where technical staff are encouraged to spend 15% of their time on their own projects.
• Corel developed iCapture, a tool where employee ideas can be documented; and iCouncil, a team that manages the process for utilizing the ideas.
• BoozAllenHamilton has a yearly “Ideas Festival” where employees are able to showcase their ideas to senior management.
• GE encourages “Time to Think”.
Two main obstacles to encouraging creativity at work are 1) fear of failure and 2) lack of time.
The wise leader will understand that these two potential roadblocks must be addressed in order for employees to contribute their creative ideas. Leaders should cultivate an environment where it is okay to try new things, to speak out, to challenge the current ways of doing things. Time for thinking, for brainstorming, for incubation and building of ideas needs to be incorporated into the workday.
Creative leaders develop an organizational culture where:
• Ideas are encouraged, valued, and generated freely.
• Ideas can be adjusted and morphed by others – an idea doesn’t have to be fully complete to be considered.
• Criteria for evaluating and a process for testing the ideas are in place, understood by employees, and active.
• Ideas are implemented and measured.
• People who deliver ideas are recognized.
When employees see that their ideas are taken seriously, and that there is in fact a system in place to make their ideas reality (and not just brushed off), creativity mushrooms. A creative environment will only be as strong as it’s leaders place value in it. And in today’s world, those leaders that encourage and take advantage of a creative culture will be known for their standout organizations.
Check out filmmaker David Lynch's take on "hooking" ideas.
Relax, and let some ideas flow, as you listen to this cover of Louis Armstrong's "I Get Ideas". I couldn't help but include this...