Imagine asking a panel of CEOs from top American companies: What is leadership in the 21st century?
I had the opportunity to hear their response at a recent Procter & Gamble Alumni conference. There were two answers right away:
- Driving change
- Developing future leaders who can drive change
The next question: “How do you drive change?” brought these answers:
- you need a process.
- get your best people on it (it’s the most important thing you are doing).
- set priorities: what do you want to change?
- measure the results.
- there must be consequences (move resisters out of the way).
- teach each other how to do it ( every organization is different).
- permanent change takes time.
Today leadership means making adaptability a way of life. It is a proactive process: identifying problems as opportunities, creating new solution ideas and implementing changes. These problems may be strategic :
- defining a new vision or mission
- establishing high-level goals
- finding new directions to pursue
- exploring new markets to enter
- engaging customers to uncover hidden needs
Or they may be tactical:
- speeding up a procedure
- installing a new technology
- improving customer satisfaction
- reducing cost
- increasing quality
This week’s Minsight: How might you take the lead (without being asked) in tackling a change opportunity in your department or team ? One thing we know for sure is that taking the plunge is the key to the process. Once you involve others in getting started, they will not want to stop. How about sharing feedback on your experience?
We live and work in an era of rapidly accelerating change with frequent upheavals and interruptions. Everywhere we look, traditional structures are abruptly being reshaped or falling down. Many organizations that prospered during more stable times – times that rewarded routinized efficiency – now find themselves poorly adapted to today’s new economic and social realities.
Once successful companies are finding that their sure-hit formulas no longer work. Long revered icons of organizational excellence have been humbled, and even bailed out of bankruptcy and imminent demise by government intervention. Individuals, families and entire communities are finding the world shifting beneath their feet as traditional markets, industries, societal structures, and sources of employment disappear under the impact of new information technologies, global competition, lack of regulation of financial institutions, uncertainty about global warming, transitioning to new energy sources, and a restructuring of the world economy.
It is not surprising that organizations whose main virtues during previous times were predictability and reliability should find it difficult to adapt to this increasingly dynamic environment. Their employees, too, are struggling to deal with these changing times as the vast scale of change has resulted in an unprecedented need for information processing and problem solving skills. But within the scope of the challenge lies a great opportunity for the future prosperity of organizations everywhere.
Taking advantage of economic uncertainty and turbulence requires a corporate mindset eager to embrace change and innovation, and determined to benefit from it. By making a deliberate choice to incorporate an innovation process into everyday work at all levels and across all disciplines, organizations can achieve sustained competitive advantage, positive people outcomes organizations can achieve sustained competitive advantage, positive people outcomes, a “how might we?” attitude, and an inevitable change to a more innovative culture.
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.
Is your company nimble, adaptable and innovative? Does it quickly capitalize on new trends and technologies, often with leading-edge products? Or is it slow to change, and often resistant to new ideas? Despite the lip service many companies pay to the concept of innovation, many continue to throw up organizational roadblocks that discourage creativity. If any or all of these five challenges feel familiar, it might be time for a creativity overhaul.
- “I don’t have time to be innovative.” People feel they barely have enough time to do their ‘regular’ jobs, never mind taking time to be innovative. They perceive innovation as something apart from their work, an ‘extra’ that’s been dumped on their plates and that complicates their jobs. With growing global competition creating ever more ‘lean and mean’ organizations, people can be left feeling discouraged about developing new ideas or making innovative ideas work.
- “What’s in it for me?” Incentives for innovation are limited or invisible. Organizational reward systems like performance appraisals and promotions are often based solely on measures of short-term efficiency and profitability. The process of innovation – from the glimmer of an opportunity to an actual result – typically takes time, usually is tough to measure, and rarely is directly rewarded.
- “No one told me…” Ineffective communication, both upward and downward, stymies innovative behavior. Employees near the bottom of the organizational pyramid, who may actually have the best hands-on knowledge for developing innovative new ways to do things, lack a pipeline for communicating those ideas to decision makers in upper management. Company priorities and directions are often unclearly communicated downward, resulting in unfocused innovation efforts.
- “I’m going to my office and closing my door.” Physical environments can encourage, or discourage innovation. Many organizations still have employees working in isolation from one another, holed away in small cubicles down long hallways. Innovation thrives when groups of people with different knowledge and innovation process styles can formally or informally share problems, information and ideas.
- “That’s not my department.” Like physical isolation, functional isolation discourages innovation. Many companies still divide employees into departments such as sales, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and accounting, where they pursue their own goals in separate areas. Managers focus on functional goals, rather than overall organizational goals. Silos develop as employees work solely with other specialists and begin to view other functions as less important, or even as competitors. Important organizational problems fall between the cracks; interdepartmental teams struggle as turf issues dominate meetings; and multi-departmental projects take forever to complete.
Has your company found ways to remove roadblocks to innovation? We’d love to hear your stories of success – or frustration. To learn how to build a more innovative company, visit Basadur Applied Creativity.
In my blog last week, I made the point that innovation is a learned process that we can all integrate into our lives to build a daily habit. Too often, innovation is seen as a final product or result, not an ongoing process.
The other widespread misconception about innovation is that it is somehow synonymous with technology. Organizations, including governments, tout their innovativeness in terms of the adoption or introduction of a new technological advancement. While great new high tech gadgets and offerings may be the result of innovation, they are not innovation itself. The process of innovation can result in new ways to do almost anything – from services to design to manufacturing processes. It is the innovation process – and the mental skills that make it work – that are the crucial element to driving progress.
Governments that tout their innovativeness with the adoption of new technologies all too frequently actually serve to signal their innovative inadequacies. New technologies often only improve the effectiveness of existing processes and routines. They enable us to vote more quickly, pay more quickly, and complain faster, but is that really all that we want in terms of innovative thinking from our governments? Real, high impact innovation in government occurs when the fundamental approach to managing and solving societal issues changes from the current, traditional model. The town of Pelham in the Niagara region of Ontario is one notable exception, as I have described in previous blogs.
In business, along with the erroneous notion that innovation equals technology, I also often hear people speak of innovation as something owned by the research and development department. It’s as if people expect that R&D folks will do innovation, find an exciting new product or service, then hand it off to the rest of the company, where innovation is no longer useful or important. The most successful innovation occurs when R&D staff team up with experts from areas like marketing, sales and manufacturing, who can bring their own knowledge of suppliers, consumers and users to the process.
Organizations that are looking to succeed today and into the future must establish a ‘How Might We?’ culture in which every employee feels motivated and empowered to find and define problems, and develop and implement creative solutions. The reward will be an engaged and imaginative workforce.
Innovation is a 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, it can be used in every department and by people at every level of an organization.
People and organizations that recognize the process of innovation and build proficiency in the necessary skills and mental habits are rewarded with an improved ability to find, define and creatively solve problems.
Does your organization value teams that work nicely together, have few personality conflicts and easily reach a consensus? If so, you may be promoting ‘group-think’ and robbing yourself of real solutions, real creativity and real innovation.
At Basadur Applied Creativity, we’ve researched team building and determined how to create business teams that do more than just complete a project or solve a problem. They consistently deliver results that meet and exceed business objectives.
Our research has demonstrated that teams comprised of different problem-solving styles are generally more productive and innovative. Each member brings a unique perspective to the problem, greatly reducing the risk of an isolated or ‘silo’d’ view. Such teams provide a more balanced approach with their own, built-in checks and balances. A properly constructed team will also regulate itself, challenging concepts and ideas.
The key to determining your team members’ creative problem-solving styles is the Basadur Creative Problem Solving Profile. Complete the Basadur Profile questionnaire today.