Someone said, “You can’t use up creativity! The more you use, the more you have.”
Businesses have been moving at a pace they never did in the past because there is a high degree of uncertainty in our environment. Leaders are on their toes; they are keeping a close watch on the environment and making adjustments in their plans continually. Naturally, creativity is the most premium ability we are seeking among talented people.
What’s at the core?
Technology companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Samsung, IBM are well-known for the innovation culture they live; new-age companies like Tesla are built on the premise of developing alternate solutions; old companies like P&G, Coca Cola, Merck, Abbott, Bosch, Ikea, Sony and Hyundai have remained relevant because they have been agile in responding to the opportunities in the market and addressing the weaknesses. In each of these examples, their leaders have believed in a nimble-footed approach and made it a part of their organizational culture.
Which aspects of their culture promote creativity?
Frederick Wallace Smith is the Founder of FedEx, a global leader in logistics. He said, “My innovation involved taking an idea from telecommunications and banking industries, and applying that idea to transportation business.” This guides us to sow the seeds of creativity in the business.
We have to observe what’s happening around us and take a keen interest in understanding how the dots are getting connected. Talented people capable of lateral thinking can observe the events, interpret them and project those ideas onto our own situation. Hence, the first step is to have a team of people capable of keen observance and lateral thinking.
The leaders have to empower the team of people to look for opportunities, innovate methods to leverage them and improve their internal context. The idea is to cater to existing customers better, add new segments of customers and hence, new sources of revenue, create greater value for the customer and hence, for the business.
Hence, it is mainly getting the right people on board and empowering them to generate ideas, run experiments and choose the ones which work well.
Need rigour in execution
P&G, one of the most innovative companies in the world has a culture of innovation; A G Lafley, one of its respected CEOs drove this culture hard within the organisation. The practices he espoused are well-documented. He said, “Let’s execute along this strategy, but know that we’ll probably get some of this wrong, so be open to changing it.”
He said, “A strategy is a coordinated and integrated set of where-to-play, how-to-win, core capability, and management system choices that uniquely meet a consumer’s needs, thereby creating competitive advantage and superior value for a business. Strategy is a way to win – and nothing less.”
Organisations often get excited about innovation and building the culture to facilitate innovation. However, they do not pursue this culture rigorously. They adopt the best practices but do not follow them consistently.
To build a culture of agility and creativity, leaders have to not only staff the roles with the right people, empower them to evolve new ideas and shape those ideas into reality, but also, they need to follow these practices rigorously. Leaders have to walk the talk by consistently rewarding creativity, offering flexibility and allowing employees the wiggle room to experiment.