In addition, people are taught to avoid making mistakes. They witness how punishment for a miscalculation is handed out to their colleagues and decide that risky actions have too much personal downside; they prefer the status quo.
To counter these powerful anti-creativity forces, leaders can ask two questions and get the creative juices flowing in their organization.
1. “How do we get there?”
If you know how to hit your target, your incentive to be innovative and creative is zero because you have it figured out. You think you know exactly how to get to your desired destination and therefore spend no time exploring new avenues to get you there. On the other hand, if you have no idea how to achieve your goal your incentive to create something new is high; you have to figure it out.
Creativity is not spawned by applying predictive analytical tools that draw upon historic performance to derive expected 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 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.
When this happens, the incentive to innovate is zero; creative juices don’t flow.
2. “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 copious amounts of employee 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. There may be some innovation required to implement someone else’s process or operational system, but certainly not enough to move the innovation dial on the organization’s performance dashboard.
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).
Roy Osing is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead.
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