Join Nancy Napier for an in-depth discussion in this video Discipline 3: Making creativity a habit, part of Building Creative Organizations.
Does the idea of structure join with creativity sound odd? In fact, having a structured discipline toward creativity is essential for leading high performance organizations. And Albert Einstein can help explain why. Einstein wore the same type of clothes. Walked to work with the same colleagues on the same route every day. Boring? Not to him. As he has said, having some structure in certain parts of his life, allowed for him to free up his mind, and be creative where it was important in solving big problems. The same holds for highly creative organizations and leaders anywhere. Having some structure in how to approach creativity can make the process normal and routine.
Instead of setting aside a retreat day to be creative, the best organizations make it a habit, just part of daily life. Highly creative organizations follow a similar pattern when they do things differently and come up with ideas. Typically, they follow four phases. Review what's been done, generate new ideas, test ideas, and use the best ideas. Let's go through each of these, but remember to adjust them to fit your own firm situation.
Step one, review what's worked, what hasn't, and figure out what you can learn. When BMW develops a new car model, they don't start completely from scratch. They review what's worked well, save the good parts, and figure out what to change to make the next one better. Then, they get creative. Step two, generate new ideas. Ideas can come in many forms. You can tweak an existing one to make it better. You can come up with ideas that sit on the back-burner until the timing is right in the market place or in the company. You could generate big ideas or small ones.
But I found from my experience in working with creative companies, it's far more productive and efficient to have a disciplined approach to generating ideas. A health care company I work with has discovered that when people hold meetings, they typically spend about 15% of the time in the meeting, coming up with new ideas to solve problems. Some leaders now say they'd like to boost that to 25% of a meeting's time to be productive and creative. The actual percentage is less important than the habit they've instilled.
By building in time, they've made creativity a discipline that becomes routine. Step 3, test ideas. Once you've got some good ideas, play with them. Try something out, quickly if possible. Some will be right for the time and place, and others won't. Toss them and move on. You know that Dyson vacuum cleaner, the one with the ball? How many prototypes do you suppose Dyson tested before he got it right? More than 5,000. Now that's a lot of testing.
But he got it right in the end. So get to work, and test out what you think are your best ideas. And don't be afraid to fail. Failing is a crucial part of finding good ideas. So fail fast, but then learn from the failure. Step four, use the best ideas. Once you've found some great idea that works, launch it. But do it right. Remember that having a great idea is just a beginning. Turning into something that works is sometimes tougher but certainly more crucial in the long run if innovation is your goal.
Have you ever thought about where structure could help your organization create time and space to be creative? Use these four simple phases to review, generate, test and use ideas to see if you can be more efficient and more effective.