Monthly Archives: November 2013

How might we, as leaders, build prosperity on a foundation of engagement and creative thinking?

Organizations around the globe are thirsting for a blueprint to follow to increase performance in these uncertain times. They are finding this a difficult task because things are not what they used to be. They are finding that how they provide value to consumers is no longer clear nor linear, but much more elusive and ambiguous. Many are turning their attention to attempting to become more innovative. One of the major challenges is to transition their business culture into one that engages employees at all levels in using their creative problem solving skills to making things better. The good news is that there is a proven and readily available method to enable this transition.

Simplexity Thinking offers a new approach to organizational adaptability and ingenuity. The key is recognizing that skill in executing traditional efficiency processes is no longer enough to guarantee success. Employees must also possess deep and well-developed skills in executing creativity as a standard everyday process. Innovation and creative problem solving must be a core mindset to empower breakthrough improvements, as compared to simply just small scale steps forward. There is an opportunity for societal and organizational leaders to embrace and use our four-stage creativity process as a blueprint for standardizing a consistent innovation process, just as they have standardized other processes. Establishing a routine and procedures that ensure decision-makers cycle through the four stages of the creativity process will place innovation at the center of the corporate mindset.

In other words, a creative problem solving process and the related creativity preference styles indicated by the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile can be used to manage societal and organizational innovation and change, and to engage people and employees in adaptability work as a deliberate means for motivation and increased effectiveness in the face of accelerating change and increased competition.

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Filed under Business, Change Making, innovation, leadership, Problem Solving, Simplexity

How might we, as leaders, establish a culture of proactively seeking good problems to solve?

Many leaders are frustrated by their inability to motivate people. In some cases, it is because they are using the overly simplistic “scientific management” concept made popular in the early 20th century by Frederick Taylor, who believed that employees are motivated only by money.

It turns out that creativity may be the new cash, when it comes to motivating employees. Research has shown that people who are given the opportunity to use their creativity in their everyday work  are more highly motivated, have lower absenteeism rates and demonstrate a strong commitment to all aspects of their job.

Some top Japanese organizations use employee engagement systems to encourage problem finding and solving behavior and drive creative output, including cost savings and new products and procedures. One company had 660,000 implemented new ideas from 9,000 employees in a single year. While these suggestion systems can result in highly valuable new ideas, their primary objective is to engage employees in the innovation process as part of their jobs.

Developing a culture of empathy toward one another can also create a connection to a key element of this proven innovation process. Genuine respect and caring for others’ well being ties naturally into the ‘problem finding’ process that is summarized with the expression, “How might we?” Achieving breakthrough results starts with empathy for the needs and problems of internal and external users and customers.  By surfacing customer needs and problems, often before they themselves are aware of them, organizations can find innovative solutions that answer the questions, “How might we help the customer?” and “How might the customer?”

The secret is that innovation is a process, not an event or a happening. It is a creative problem solving process of finding and defining internal and external needs, developing solutions to address those needs, and successfully implementing those solutions. The needs – or problems to be solved – can be found across a broad spectrum of areas, including, but not limited to technology, products, markets, packaging, design, manufacturing processes, new business models, , and new ways to go-to-market. The innovation process and the mental skills that make it work can be learned and become a daily habit that results in ongoing creative disruption and problem solving.  Everyone can take part in this innovation process. Once learned and understood, people at every level of an organization can use it in every department.

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Filed under Change Making, leadership, Problem Solving

How might we, as leaders, adopt a process of creative problem solving involving everyone, all the time, in everything we do?

Organizations must develop new ways of thinking and behaving in order to succeed in a turbulent world. While many organizations possess ample efficiency and analytical capability, successful organizations must also learn to integrate adaptability and innovative capability into their repertoires. Creative problem solving attitudes, behaviors, thinking skills and processes must be learned and developed to the extent that they become second nature. Organizations that adopt this approach will discover that creativity competency serves to complement analytical capability in building a highly effective operation that can thrive in today’s demanding business environment.

One of the goals of the Center for Research in Applied Creativity is to help the field of creative problem solving be better understood in its applicability to innovation and real world work. Adaptability is driven by a four-stage creative problem solving process composed of generating, conceptualizing and solving important problems and implementing valuable new solutions.  Generation is the proactive sensing of intriguing problems (trends, opportunities, and needs) and is sometimes called “opportunistic surveillance”.  Physical contact with, and involvement in, real world activities alerts the individual to inconsistencies and difficulties. These inconsistencies are then used to suggest new problem areas, to identify opportunities for improvement and innovation, and to propose projects that might be worth undertaking. The problems and opportunities are recognized, but are not yet clearly articulated or understood. The next step is conceptualization, which offers a more comprehensive analysis, definition and understanding of the opportunity. In Optimization, conceptualized alternatives are systematically examined in order to develop a plan for implementing an optimal solution.  The fourth stage, Implementation, consists of experimenting with the new solution, and making adjustments as necessary to successfully implement it. Individuals have different preferences for each stage and thus are said to have different innovation process “styles”.  An easy to administer psychological instrument called the Creative Problem Solving Profile (CPSP) measures an individual’s relative preferences for the four different stages of the process and thus enables the building of cognitively diverse, highly effective  teams.

Organizational leaders must recognize, nurture, reward and synchronize the different styles of creativity associated with the various stages of the creative process, particularly as different parts of organizations tend to prefer different stages and thus, contribute differently to the creative process. Gone are the days when a company could assign “creative work” to a select group of people, say, in the marketing or R&D department. Today, much more complex challenges posed by globalization of competition and technological advancement make it imperative for organizations to engage the creativity of all members, across multiple disciplines. No longer can the creative process be seen as a “relay race,” with one department handing off pieces of a project to the next. Rather than wait for others to “do their job first,” each department must be involved throughout the various stages of the creative process. By blending different kinds of knowledge and different kinds of cognitive problem solving styles, the entire organization can more quickly and successfully implement new solutions to newly discovered, well-defined problems and opportunities.

This knowledge also belongs at every level of the organization. By using this process, organizations can identify specific problems and challenges within a milieu of vague and wide-ranging issues. For example, issues are often identified with relatively broad statements such as, “Morale is bad here,” or “Communication is our biggest problem.” There is tremendous value in transforming such statements into more specific, simply worded challenges such as, “How might we help our employees take pride in their every day work?” or “How might we make it easier for every employee to create and implement improvements to our procedures, products and services?”

The success of the process depends on the skill of the participants in applying it. This skill includes being able to use simple and specific words in asking questions and providing answers. While leaders must develop their own adaptability skills, attitudes and behaviors, it’s equally important that they champion the development of those same skills, attitudes and behaviors for others throughout their organizations. Today’s corporate environment must welcome and incubate new and different ideas. It must nurture employees who challenge the status quo, perceive a different possibility, or simply look at things that aren’t and ask, “How might we?” and “What’s stopping us?”

The new business rule: the discomfort of disruptive creativity must be embraced.

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Filed under Business, Problem Solving, Simplexity, Uncategorized