In parts 1 and part 2 of this series we looked at fostering creativity and mapping the creative environment. However, in organisations creativity needs to be driven from the top. If the leadership is not creative and does not promote creativity and does not foster creativity among staff then the organisation will not achieve its full creative potential. It is as simple as that. Of course that may seem easier said than done. After all, the creative people can sometimes seem to be the most difficult in organisations, wanting to change everything when things have already worked in a certain way for eons. Their ideas can spin meetings “off track”, and they can be difficult to manage. However, these are the people that can turn your organisation around with their innovative ways of looking at things, and their bright ideas. Leading these people to drive organisational success is key to survival in today’s business environment.
Maybe it is for these reasons that Ladan Nikravan (2012) writing for Chief Learning Officer argues that:
“Creativity has always been at the centre of business but now it’s at the top of the management agenda”.
According to Ladan Nikravan, a recent IBM Global CEO Study of approximately 1,500 CEOs spanning 33 industries and 60 nations found that creativity is the most important leadership quality to be able to achieve business success. This quality has become more important than being able to think on a global perspective or having high integrity. This is explained to be because the business environment is increasingly unstable and complicated. The ability to be able to come up with unique ideas that can leverage competitive advantage has become critical to success in such an uncertain world. The pace of change of the business environment drives an even faster pace of change within organisations as they try to get ahead of trends and patterns that are continually evolving.Image source: Gapingvoid
Ladan explains that organisations need to be able to draw on their “collective imagination” to be able to solve the difficult problems that are presented by the fast moving business environment. To be able to succeed in such an environment of severe volatility requires continual new ideas that can drive innovation. The only way to achieve this is to be able to encourage creative thinking and to lead organisations to develop imaginative ideas that can lead to innovative approaches. As Ladan puts it:
“Without creative thinking, organisations miss out on breakthrough ideas that can become innovations”.
However, it is also explained that in order to achieve this, the leaders of today have to understand just how important creativity really is and they need to be able to foster creative problem solving at all levels of their organisations. Diversity of different ideas and backgrounds helps to devise new ways of thinking about existing problems, and so hiring people that are creative is one step, but leadership that encourages creativity is increasingly becoming a necessity. That means leaders being able to see that creative types are not irritating annoyances to shoot down in flames in meetings, but that these people have great value to offer in the complex environment that businesses now operate within.
Reporting on another study by AMA Enterprise and the Institute for Corporate Productivity, Ladan explains that in fact while it is so important, being able to be creative and drive creativity is perhaps one of the most difficult leadership challenges of all. Leaders get caught up in the day to day running of the organisation and this pressure leads to them having very little time to be able to think up new ideas or brainstorm. There is less space than ever before for leaders to be creative, yet be creative they must.
Ladan explains that creativity can be shaped and guided by great leaders. Letting people feel comfortable enough to be creative and in an environment where they do not have to fear sharing their ideas are a good start. Positive conflict can be helpful in this regard, as constructive debate can lead to new ideas emerging for the organisation. Leaders need to encourage this. They need to show that they really, truly want creativity and that change will be constant for the organisation to succeed. It can be done but it remains to be seen how many take up the challenge to do so.
Guide to Creativity in Business Part 1
Guide to Creativity in Business Part 2
Guide to Creativity in Business Part 3
Guide to Creativity in Business Part 4
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.