Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CEO's to build a Culture of Creativity and Innovation. The Lifeblood of your Firm

Unleash growth through creativity. Creative people are everywhere in your firm, not just in the marketing department. Sheer genius comes from brilliant, non-linear thinking, the ability to communicate a vision for a great idea and the courage to see big ideas to fruition. How many creative thinkers are working on your business today?

Inventing new ideas is a far greater challenge than replicating and improving on your current ideas and businesses. It is the difference between incrementalism and major business growth. Today’s economy demands that you deploy a creative process to your business to achieve growth. Doing so will reduce the likelihood that BIG ideas are a rare occurrence in your firm. Deploy a creative innovation process today and make growth a sure bet.

“Creativity” is a mental and social process involving the generation of new
ideas or concepts. It is simply the act of making something new. Alternatively, the term “innovation” is the process by which an organization generates creative new ideas and converts them into profitable products and services. “Creative innovation” combines both: generating breakthrough business-building ideas and applying a process to vet them. Does your firm have a creative innovation process?

Richard Florida, author of “The Rise in the Creative Classes” stated that in the early 1900’s, creative jobs only accounted for 10% of the American workforce. In 1980, this rose to 20% and today, we see over 30% of jobs (or more than 40 million) with a “creative lens” in the USA.. However, this increase in “creative lens” jobs does not necessarily mean that companies which have increased focus in this area experience exponential growth. Richard believes there are three drivers of creativity that business leaders should embrace to create a pipeline of strong growth: Technology, Talent and Tolerance.

· Technology drives our ever changing landscape to improve efficiency.

· Talent is a mandate in this economy – the good news for you is that there are a lot of really talented people unemployed today and therefore available to fill key roles in achieving your company’s growth strategy. Hiring the right people can execute your business goals.

· Tolerance is needed most. It takes a long time to get the right creative process, and to foster an environment of innovation patience and open-mindedness. Without tolerance, exponential growth innovation can be undermined and stifled.

Why do some companies “get it” and others do not?
PIXAR is one of the most innovative new studios of our time. Steven Jobs invented PIXAR as a way to bring the most innovative ideas to the screen- where technology and story come together. PIXAR knows its viewers have come to expect something new and fresh each time they see a PIXAR movie. They set the bar and it is higher every time. The leaders of Pixar believe in three key operating principles to inspire creativity:

1. Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone - Managers do not always need to be the first to know what is going on. Have confidence that you chose the right people to deliver your plans. Believe that everyone’s opinion at every level matters.

2. It must be safe for everyone to offer their ideas - Have a non-judgmental environment to share ideas. Give positive feedback about ideas or the germ of the idea so people see how easy and safe it is to express in front of your group.

3. We must stay close to innovations happening in the academic community - The transparency in sharing its ideals helps PIXAR recruit great talents. Some of the best thinkers are in universities and colleges across the globe. Their research and insights can help us see into the future. It reinforces that PIXAR values the power of smart people more than it values big ideas.

Don’t be fooled. You do not need to be in a creative business to drive creativity. Geico invented a better way to sell insurance in a highly regulated, risk averse industry. Home Shopping Network sells more jewelry profitably than mall jewelry retailers paying heavy monthly leases. Enterprise Car Rental is the number one car rental with its door-to door service model. These companies are winning because they had a better way of doing something and were willing to break paradigms and think differently.

Here are five steps to help you get started:
1. Identify a creative thinker who has respect in your organization - This person may be in the field, or in a managerial position. They need to have the skill sets and the confidence to try new ideas with a small team and run a process that is a bit messy. Make this a full time job.

2. Allocate a budget with gating - Just as a venture capital firm does, develop a budget with goals and hurdles for success. The team can earn more funds if goals are achieved. Creative innovation should not be a free-for-all.

3. Listen to new voices through a new lens - Force the Executive Management team to see new things and to be open to TRYING a new idea. This is the hardest thing to do. Most executive teams say, “we cannot take the risk”, “trying this may impact our core business” etc. Show your leadership team you are willing to take the risk – that’s often where the biggest business growth opportunities are.

4. Grow from your strength - Find out what your firm is really good at doing and then build and grow from there. If your firm excels in real estate development, then explore ideas that leverage that skill.

5. Mitigate your risks - Think about big ideas but pilot small tests. Reward the failures but find the nuggets that worked.

The most strategic thing you can do in this economy is start a creative innovation process. Keep an open mind to new ideas from new people so you can achieve your growth goals.

At Airlift, we believe creativity can be applied every day with or without a costly innovation process. A new brand story can help. Call today to find out how to bake creativity into your business model. Shelley Rosen 312.492.7772 or

Source: Harvard Business Review, “How Pixar Fosters Creativity” Sept, 2008. Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class.”


Dianna said...

Hi Shelley,
All great points! As Tom Friedman indicated in The World is Flat, open source collaboration is speeding the process of innovation and those who don't embrace the ability of creative sources to emerge at any level will be left in the dust. Speed to knowledge is the new commodity. Post-Industrial Age, organizations were built along hierarchical lines, and while this model has served us well throughout the 20th Century, the 21st Century demands that we think flatter, broader, embrace those outside of our boxes with new ideas by empowering connection, and keep an eye on how our stakeholders are relating to technology and what that means in relation to the objectives at hand.

Airlift Brand Story Telling said...

Thanks Dianna. What does your firm do? What is your intrest in innovation?