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Is creativity something your company craves or is it something you do only when you get around to it?  I’m hoping your company craves creativity.  If not, here are some things you might want to think about.

Ask the question what would happen if?

Creativity is often attached to changing the status quo.  One of the best ways I know of doing this is by asking the question, “what would happen if?”

Another way of saying this is “let’s pretend it was different.”  When you ask what would happen if, you’re asking to suspend judgement.  It’s the suspension of judgement that I think is the first step to making creativity a permanent part of what you do.

Allow mistakes to be part of your process.

If you’re trying to be creative you’re going to make mistakes.  In fact, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes.  If you pretend mistakes don’t happen, there’s no way you’ll have the freedom for creativity.  Stop pretending mistakes aren’t there.  Start making them part of what you do.

When a mistake happens in your company, the first question you need to ask is, “what did you learn?”  Don’t let someone walk away until they give you a reasonable learning experience.  Otherwise you can be sure you’ll just get yourself into a loop where the same mistake shows up over and over.

Look for singles.

Too often people look for a huge win.  Huge wins are really rare.  They’re even rare for companies like Apple.  If you look at most of the innovations Apple makes they’re little ones.  In fact, they’re often so little the only thing the business press can do is whine about them.

Then, if you continue watching you’ll see that Apple will heap another small innovation on top of another small innovation.  Before long they’ve gone from doing something that doesn’t look impressive to something that is very impressive.  Is there any reason you can’t do the same in your company?

Fail fast/fail cheap.

This fits in with singles and mistakes.  When you are trying something new it should be small enough so that you can say it worked and continue or more likely didn’t work and move on quickly, the faster the better.

Include your customers.

I’m a huge fan of customer advisory boards.  Your customers may not know what they want that’s new.  At the same time they will know if something new fits into what they want.

If you’re in product development, including your customers only makes sense.  Developing in a vacuum seems to be a dumb way of moving a company forward.

Include your employees.

I think this is essential for internal innovation programs.  One of my favorite beliefs is that employees are the experts at their jobs.  Too often we don’t treat our employees this way.  Instead, we pretend we know how to do things the best.

If you treat your employees like experts at their job, you’ll find something interesting happens.  You’re employees will start speaking up.  They might even come up with an idea or two on how to make things better.  It’s your job to listen and find ways to implement the ideas, not shoot them down.

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hiring for unique abilities

Topics: cultural change, creating value, creativity

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