The Experts Up Close:
Michael J. Gelb is a creative-thinking expert and leads seminars at companies such as Microsoft and Nike. He is the author of several books, including How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci. His latest book is Innovate Like Edison.
Kevin Carroll is a speaker and expert in personal growth and human potential, the founder of Kevin Carroll Katalyst and the author of several books, including Rules of the Red Rubber Ball: Find and Sustain Your Life’s Work.
Niurka is a speaker, a communication and influence expert and founder of Niurka Inc., a corporate-training company.
Q: How can I inspire a spirit of innovation in my team members?
Kevin Carroll: For innovation to flourish within a team and an organization, it is imperative that an organization’s work environment foster a culture of “permission,” which allows employees to think about and share ideas without fear of ridicule and judgment. Employees need to feel unencumbered when it comes to problem-solving, using ingenuity and using their imaginations to innovate.
Preparing and arming your team members with tools, resources and training that gives them increased creative confidence will increase the likelihood of more breakthrough and inventive moments. Some organizations also create specific in-house programs and destinations to increase the overall creative confidence of the organization and to assist with product and brand innovation.
Some organizations go as far as to enlist the expertise of an outside creativity team to assist in redefining the business culture and, ultimately, allowing it to function with more deliberate and strategic intention to implement play and fun moments that have purpose and will enhance innovation.
Michael Gelb: Thomas Edison is the best example for those who wish to nurture the spirit of innovation in an organization. More than the light bulb, phonograph and motion picture camera, Edison’s greatest invention was the process of systematic innovation. He created the world’s first research and development laboratory and was the first to link R & D with production, manufacturing, marketing and sales.
In our book Innovate Like Edison: The Five-Step System for Breakthrough Business Success Sarah Miller Caldicott (Thomas Edison’s great-grandniece) and I introduce five basic competencies for innovating like America’s greatest inventive genius. These competencies represent a blueprint for cultivating a spirit and culture of innovation. They are:
1. Solution-Centered Mindset—Align your goals and passions. Commit to continuous learning, persistent experimentation and optimism in the face of adversity. Balance your optimism for the future with disciplined, rigorous objectivity regarding the issues you confront on a daily basis.
2. Kaleidoscopic Thinking—Like Edison, keep a notebook to record your creative ideas. Practice generating lots of ideas and then look for patterns and connections. Cultivate the ability to think visually by practicing mind-mapping.
3. Full-Spectrum Engagement—Optimize your energy by balancing apparent opposites like seriousness and play, intensity and relaxation, solitude and team. For example, if you take a 10-minute relaxation break every 60-90 minutes through the course of your day, you will remember better, work smarter and increase your chances of a breakthrough idea.
The first three competencies focus on the attitudes and skills necessary for individual innovation literacy. They set the stage for the last two, which focus on how to create an innovative culture.
4. Mastermind Collaboration—Recruit and hire for chemistry and results, rather than résumé. Create a multidisciplinary team, encourage an environment of open-exchange, and reward collaboration.
5. Super-Value Creation—Create new, sustainable customer value by tuning in to your target audience. Seek to identify gaps in the marketplace and encourage your team to think creatively about how to bridge those gaps. Focus on building an unforgettable market-moving brand.
Q: When generating new business ideas, should I reach out to all associates to utilize my entire talent pool?
Niurka: Good ideas can come from anywhere—sometimes from the people you least expect. If you want passionate, committed people who are excited to contribute to your vision, enroll them in the process of generating ideas. Not only will they feel they have a stake in the company direction, they will also be creatively energized as they share and refine ideas.
Be certain to give clear guidelines for submitting suggestions from the beginning. Be specific about what you are looking for and why. Everyone has an opinion about how business should be run, so ask for specific feedback about what could be even better. And remind them to be solution-focused. Everyone will have suggestions to share, so respect each one and honor the contributors while communicating that not every suggestion will be immediately (or ever!) implemented.
Your team will be especially eager to share great insights when you offer rewards and incentives for the implemented idea that generates the greatest results for the company. Once all ideas are collected, remind everyone that there is a time and place for idea generation and a time and place for implementing those ideas. So once you’ve decided on a direction, commit to it and archive the other ideas for possible future use. Have the core team filter through and distill all ideas into the most effective ones for final consideration. Then make the final decision in accordance with the organization’s values, purpose and mission.
Fresh ideas keep an organization actively moving forward!
Michael Gelb: Get everyone involved. The most creative organizations encourage a democracy of ideas. Thomas Edison’s employees knew that their boss was a world-class genius. Yet, he was renowned for his collegiality with all the people who worked for him. As his former employees and contemporaneous biographers Dyer and Martin wrote, “He conversed, argued and disputed with us all as if he were a colleague on the same footing.” When people at all levels know that their thinking is valued and respected, as they did in Edison’s laboratory, it encourages them to do more constructive thinking.
Kevin Carroll: I’ve heard it said more than a few times that “creativity is NOT the sole, exclusive property of those deemed to be “creative.” It’s important to realize that if the goal is to foster an innovative culture throughout your organization, then be sure to be inclusive in the process to unearth solutions, because you NEVER know where the next great idea may come from. An organization’s ability to deliver beyond-the-box thinking and new ideas can be bolstered by reaching out to the larger talent pool and creating a much more inclusive ideation process.
Q: Creativity is not my strong suit. I want to hire someone whose strength is creativity. How can I tell if I have the best candidate?
Niurka: It’s easy to be seduced by creativity, especially for those who think of themselves as creatively challenged. So, if you’re seeking a creative person to magically make business more glamorous, successful or interesting, don’t just hire the first artist who shows up!
First, get clear about exactly what results you expect. Define the position in detail, including what specifically you want the person to do. Creativity can be challenging to measure, so determine in advance how you will gauge their success and progress.
What do you have to see, hear and feel to know that this person is the right fit? Before you interview candidates, ask to see a portfolio. It will speak volumes about the candidate’s creativity and ability to present ideas in a powerful, elegant and innovative way. Look beyond the hype—creativity isn’t just about show; it’s about communicating a clear message in a unique and captivating way. Does the work lead to a specific, desired result? Does it fit with your company vision, or have that potential?
When hiring a creative person, you’ll want someone not only creative, but who can communicate well with you, your team, and your audience of clients, customers, and stakeholders. Once you’ve narrowed it to a few candidates, ask for a proposal. It will illuminate if the candidate understands the company’s vision, the scope of the project and their role within it. And of course, choose someone with a passion for the position!
Source – successmagazine.com