How to stimulate innovation through creativity and resilience

How to stimulate innovation through creativity and resilience

25 January, 2014 | By Benoit Griendl

In this resilience insight, we explore environments and organisational cultures that favour creativity and show how resilience stimulates innovation within your organisation. Finally, we outline practical steps to build a creative culture through resilience.

Creativity and innovation

Creativity and innovation are at the heart of human evolution. Throughout our history some people, communities, and more recently companies, have been more innovative and creative than others. Consider the Renaissance in Europe and the impact of the ideas of Galileo, Gutenberg, and Leonardo Da Vinci … to name only a few. During the industrial revolution Thomas Edison, James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford shaped the world we live in. More recently, Richard Branson (Virgin), Steve Jobs (Apple and Pixar) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) have defined the world currently evolving. Every great historical change began with waves of innovations. These waves not only lead to massive wealth creation but have transformed the quality of our lives and work. Today many executives firmly believe that innovation is central to a company’s strategy, performance and resilience, but getting it right is a complex challenge.

The heart of innovation: autonomy, mastery and purpose

Academics and leaders agree that the most important drivers of innovation and resilience are culture and people. Following Maxwell Wessel (member of the ‘Forum for Growth and Innovation’, a Harvard Business School think tank developing and refining theory around disruptive innovation), the reason most mature businesses can’t innovate is because they’re not designed to innovate. Instead, they’ve been carefully organised to execute. Too often, processes and organisational cultures create pressure that runs against the flow of innovation.

As stated by Richard E. Boyatzis, the atmosphere at work – which we define as “culture” – is 70% driven by leadership. This culture impacts significantly on the performance of the organisation (20 – 30%)

In his TED talk Dan Pink, explains that there is a mismatch between what sciences knows about motivation and creativity and what business does.

Here is what science knows:

1. Those 20th century rewards do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.
2. Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity.
3. The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake – the drive to do things because they matter. In fact, science confirms what we know in our hearts. Pink believes that creativity and innovation can be boosted by autonomy, mastery and purpose.
1. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives.
2. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters.
3. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses. When a leader integrates these three elements, people feel trusted and empowered to deliver results beyond expectations and embody resilience.

Stimulate collaboration

The complexity of current problems requires the collaboration of people with different backgrounds who are able to bridge the gap between different disciplines. Great ideas emerge from the connection between theories, disciplines or technical solutions that existed before. But, once assembled, they create solutions, products or new experiences for clients. The entry of Apple in the musical industry is maybe the best illustration of this. More connections lead to more ideas. It requires good collaboration between people.

Good collaboration requires first that organisation develop the employee’s self-confidence and resilience. Secondly they need to create a culture of mutual trust between people and be sure that strategy is well understood.

Traditional rewards destroy creativity

Economists at the London School of Economics looked at 51 studies of pay-for-performance plans inside companies. Here is one of their findings: “Financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance.” As long as the task involved is using only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as expected: the higher the pay, the better the performance. But once the task called for even rudimentary cognitive skill, a larger reward led to poorer performance.

Purpose is becoming the key element that drives, motivates and enables the creativity and resilience of people – and especially the younger generation. To boost creativity and so the performance of the organisation, leaders need the courage to put the contribution to society as a top priority.

As Daniel Goleman explained in his approach on Emotional Intelligence, knowing yourself and mastering your emotions helps to understand the emotions of others. This is empathy. When activated positively, empathy leads to compassion and compassion to purpose – paying attention well beyond your own interests.

Patagonia clothing company is a good example of a company living it’s purpose with great success. Patagonia earned $500 million in sales in 2011, growing almost 30% in each of the previous two years – all while setting the bar for sustainability. Patagonia’s values are clearly aligned with what its customers expect of it: love of nature and adventure. The company has not used these values as a means of making its product brand better known, but instead it has sought to invent new ways of showing that these values are at the heart of its strategy and are not just a result of it.

Accepting failure – not fear!

Creativity expert, Ken Robinson says that if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something original. It does not mean that to be wrong is creativity but that it is an enabling condition.

Education often teaches students to avoid mistakes. This can educate students to neglect their creative capacities. Unfortunately, our companies can be organised to avoid mistakes, too often minimise risks and push people to stay outside their creative capacities. This is a wasted opportunity.

Welcome frustration

The gap between reality and desire is an opportunity for creativity.

“Typically in an entrepreneur, ambition outstrips resources and that inequality forces the entrepreneur to think differently. We’ve learned to innovate by raising our ambitions and constraining our resources.” Nitin Paranjpe, Unilever

Every creative journey begins with a problem, says Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works (2012). It starts with a feeling of frustration; we worked hard and we are facing a wall. We have no idea what else to do. Archimedes bath to Newton’s apple is the type of mental process described by Einstein, Picasso and Mozart. When we think of creative breakthroughs, we imagine a flash glowing like a light bulb illuminating the mind.

Scientists define inspiration through two common characteristics. First, “experience the idea”, before the Eureka moment, the intention and the goals are clear, but the processes, the ideas are not there yet. Second is the “moment of revelation” which is combined with a feeling of certainty. After his Eureka moment, Archimedes came out of the bath to run immediately to the king and share his solution, still dripping.

We all have the potential for creativity. Organisations need to recognise and develop that potential.

Resilience leads to creativity

At Springfox, we observe how resilience lays the foundations of autonomy, mastery and purpose. This helps to develop a clear vision for the future and also boosts creativity. The impact of resilience is straightforward: distress goes down, confusion drops, emotions are controlled, the mind is clear. Creativity follows and performance soars.

Resilience is learnable, thus creativity and innovation are also skills that can be strengthened. The “Eureka moments” happen in very specific conditions.

In our Creativity Supply Chain (see model below), resilience requires a full engagement of body, heart, mind and spirit. An integral daily discipline (refer to Living Resilience insight) will put you in the right place to be creative.

When your Creativity Supply Chain is activated, you are calm and alert (Presence). You engage your emotions (Resonance), your mind guides you according to clear values (Meaning), and we honour a goal (Purpose). The alignment is immediately actionable.

When you reach the limits of your effort, you experience a gap between reality and desire. When your mind freezes and you cannot find “the” solution, let go and relax. Relaxation skills will help you be more creative.

Resilience leads to empathy and compassion. Compassion integrates the needs of your colleagues and clients. Compassion frees the mind to think beyond the obvious to integrate human needs, sustainability and profit. When we achieve all three we have a purpose that inspires all.

Five resilience practices to boost creativity:

1. Lead by example! Have an Integral Daily Practice that supports your own creativity.

2. Practice Relaxation – a skill at the heart of the innovative process. Organise a relaxation space, facilitate breathing exercises before meetings, consider walking meetings etc.

3. Encourage collaborative ways of working. Prefer face to face dialogue over virtual communication, reward groups initiatives that support formal and informal connections.

4. Build your team’s emotional intelligence, encouraging leaders to develop self mastery and empathy for all stakeholders.

5. Clarify the values and purpose of your activity. Communicate it clearly and make sure actions and decisions are fully aligned with what matters the most.

Consider a resilience program for your team to strengthen the creative culture in your company. Beyond processes, creativity and innovation are first and foremost the result of inspiring leadership. Go for it – this is precisely what we all need now!

References Mc Kinsey Quartely (October 2006)
Wessel, M (September 2012)
Harvard Business Review Boyatzis, R, E (2008)
Becoming a Resonant Leader Pink, D (2009)
The Puzzle of Motivation TED Talk Goleman, D (2005)
Emotional Intelligence, Why it Can Matter More Than IQ Robinson, K (2011)
The Element Lehrer, J (2012) Imagine how creativity works

Originally published on and reproduced with permission.

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