Recently, I attended a great conference about continuous improvement and innovation. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and connect with people who are as interested in finding new ways to satisfy customers as I am. As I expected, there was a lot of discussion about ways to help organizations become more innovative.
But, there was also something that I hadn’t expected from a group gathered together to focus on innovation. And that was the attitudes and assumptions about creativity I experienced. Over and over, to my surprise, I heard comments such as:
“I’m the analytical type. I’m just not creative.”
“Creativity isn’t for us. We leave that to the ‘creative types’…you know the ones in the art department.”
“Creativity is a nice idea, but it doesn’t get anything done, and we’re all about results here.”
Thinking about it, I realized I was surprised because as I see it:
- Innovation means making or doing things in new and/or different ways, which, in itself, implies creativity: having the ideas needed to bring new products or services into existence.
- We are all creative beings. Creativity is what being human is all about; we’re both wired to put the knowledge gained from our experiences together in new and unique ways and we are driven to do so. Just think about all the things that seemed ‘impossible’ to even imagine, ten years ago, five years ago, or even yesterday, that are now just simply part of our everyday regular routine.
- There’s no divide between creativity and practicality. Creativity – generating new ideas from the synthesis of past knowledge and experience – is simply the first step in turning vision into reality. Without an idea, a vision to begin to work from, there’s nothing to turn into reality.
As I thought more about my experience I realized that if we, as individuals and organizations, don’t see ourselves as creative, and, as well, view creativity as impractical, we miss huge opportunities: opportunities to create the peak service experiences and innovative products that will change our customers’ lives AND opportunities to engage each of our team members as the fully creative beings that they are.
So what can we do to change our ideas and assumptions about creativity? How can we help our people generate creative, new ideas to better meet the needs of each of our customers AND put those ideas into practice to deliver the results our business needs?
- Listen carefully for what I call “I can’t” thinking, both in yourself and your team. Statements like “we can’t do that” or “that’s impossible” are good indications that an underlying attitude of “I’m not creative” exists. When you encounter “I can’t” thinking, stop, write down every possible obstacle, and then consciously work to generate as many ideas as possible to remove those obstacles. Spending time generating those ideas will give everyone practice being creative! And the more we practice, the more confidence we’ll gain that no matter who we are, what department we work in or what job we have, we’re all creative.
- Once you and your team have generated an idea, immediately make a plan to test it in reality – as quickly as possible. If you have an idea this morning, find a way to test it in the afternoon! (Yes, you can…remember, no “I can’t” thinking.) See what happens: did what you think was going to happen occur? Or did something else happen? Once you try your idea and find out what happened you’ve taken the first step to turning an idea into reality – what I call “practical creativity™”. If the idea worked, great! If not, no problem, on to the next! The quicker you can “try your ideas in reality” the quicker you’ll see results for your customers and company.
The world is changing rapidly. For us, our customers and our companies. To flourish, thrive and fulfill our purpose, as people and organizations, increasingly we’re all going to need to be innovative. Luckily, for us, whether or not we realize it, as humans we are all creative beings. Pablo Picasso said, “Everything you can imagine is real.” I believe that is true. Once you do too, just imagine what you and your team will be able to create!