Most people and cultures are “taught” to be cautious and to make decisions based on unnecessary rigorous analysis in order to “get it perfect”.
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 the momentum of the organization continues.
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.
It never happens.
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.
Also read: Do You Have A Copycat Culture?
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).
Also read: Why We Need A Culture Of “Weird”
To be successful in the long run, the incentive to innovate in an organization 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.
Standout cultures make a point of not taking the predictable path and not fitting in to the straight jacket of others.
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