Join Nancy Napier for an in-depth discussion in this video Discipline 6: Fostering a creative culture, part of Building Creative Organizations.
Even if you hire the right people, try to instill a discipline creative process and plan your work space to encourage creativity. Your dream of a highly creative, high performance organization can fail if you don't have a good culture to hold it all together. As leaders often say, your organization will have a culture whether you like it or not. The goal is to make sure that you shape it, rather than let it just emerge and become something that doesn't support your vision.
Culture is the set of actions that people learn and do, when no one is looking. If that involves trying to encourage creativity, what would it look like. Let's talk about three aspects of a culture that encourages creativity. First, as I mentioned before, the ability and support to take risk and be allowed to fail is critical. Second, we can't expect all good ideas to come from the leader or just a few people in an organization.
You need to encourage ideas from all levels. Finally, giving an idea a little chance to grow by encouraging it. So, let's talk about each of these three. Encourage risk taking. Think about how you learn to ski or play the piano or make a presentation. Or make a sales call. Did you do it perfectly the very first time? I bet even gold medal winners didn't do it right all the time. So, why should we expect employees to never make mistakes in organizations.
Creative leaders allow for mistakes and failure, especially if they can be small and lead to learning. Over several years the food giant Kraft went from a bottom place to top place in innovation. How'd they do that? One shift was in the culture. As the Vice President of Breakthrough Innovations said, the firm went from a culture of we can't to one of what he calls positive discontent, where the firm celebrated people who try new things. But it's hard to encourage creativity, since even the smallest gesture can squelch an idea since ideas are like seedlings.
So, look for ideas from all levels. When one or a few persons seem to have most of the ideas in a company, I like to call that idea central. The danger is that a firm can become too dependent on just a few people, which can make others complaisant or even lazy and the organization could miss some great ideas. One software company I work with discovered it needed more touch points for ideas.
That meant people at all levels needed to look for ideas within their own networks in and out of the fields they work in. It spread the responsibility of finding ideas to all levels and generated some great ones that the leaders never would have found on their own. Give an idea a chance to encourage creativity, creative leaders know they have to give ideas a chance to grow. I find that many of them use three simple words to make that happen.
Tell me more. Now, why are those words so powerful? First, they force slowing and listening. That tells the person who suggests an idea that he or she is worth listening to. Also, it shows that the leader thinks ideas and creativity are important, at least for a few minutes. Next, those words convey an openness that is absolutely critical for a culture of creativity to happen. And finally, use the three powerful words to give an idea a chance to breathe. New ideas are fragile.
They're trying to sprout through the mind's full and messy clutter of thoughts. And like a small seedling, if you step on a new idea, it will die. So, by slowing down, asking to hear more, the idea gets a little more time to become stronger. In the end, of course, an idea may not survive if it's not a good one. But at least, it gets some time and protection from immediately squelching it. And by giving it a little extra breathing room, perhaps it can grow in ways that no one expected. So, I encourage you to try these three ways to develop a creative culture. Encourage risk taking, find ideas from all levels.
And lastly, say, Tell me more.