Creativity and innovation are frequently cited by business leaders as critical components of success. However, many firms fail to create and encourage environments that flourish creativity. Why is it so difficult for organizations to encourage employee creativity? The solution can be found in the subtle and deeply ingrained behaviors that prevent organizations from creating an innovative culture. In this article, the authors identify three misconceptions that managers must overcome to effectively build creative cultures.
1. The Productivity Illusion: Trying to solve problems too fast, especially complicated ones, is detrimental to innovation. Some of the best answers do not come during the first meeting or two, but rather after a longer time of incubation. Resisting the urge to find a quick answer can lead to more innovative and far-reaching solutions.
To prevent premature closure, teams should arrive at an “almost final” decision and then purposely postpone action to allow for more incubation time. If the team is unable to identify a better solution during the incubation period, they should stick with their original idea, even if it means abandoning their original plan.
2. The Intelligence Illusion: Creative thinking requires more cognitive effort than logical thinking. It engages more parts of the brain in both the left and right hemispheres and places greater demands on working memory. It is simpler to analyze a concept than it is to synthesize a new one from various sources. Working memory gets more taxed because all elements must be retained during processing.
In an ideal scenario, organisations would compensate employees in proportion to the amount of cognitive work they do. In practise, we prefer to choose “critic” over “synthesiser” since a critic’s sound is intelligent. The intelligence illusion may seem mild, yet it has severe consequences for an organisation.
Leaders can improve group creativity by paying close attention to how ideas are discussed. They should encourage team members to build on each other’s ideas instead of pushing their own. This doesn’t mean that ideas should be accepted blindly when they contain flaws. Instead, they should approach ideas with an open mind.
3. The Brainstorming Illusion: Majority of teams associate successful ideation with teamwork. In practice, nominal brainstorming consistently outperforms traditional group brainstorming. According to Yale research, the number of ideas generated by individuals and then aggregated (nominal group) was twice that of ideas generated by a group working together.
To promote more creative ideas, leaders can use simple tools to capture individual ideas before they are presented to the entire group. Asynchronous group conversations should be held in which team members look at each other’s ideas and use them to improve and form new ones.
Companies with a culture of innovation are three times more profitable. This work needs clear and continuous political commitment, an inclusive leadership style, a thoughtful organizational structure, and an explicitly earmarked budget. Creativity programmes are a must. These programmes are the way to growth and an engaged workforce in a conceptual economy.
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