Leading for Creativity and Innovation

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One of the primary responsibilities of a leader is our ability to enable our teams to fuel their creativity and drive innovation. Kevin Roberts (who used to be the CEO and later went on to become the Executive Chairman of one of the most creative organisation – Saatchi & Saatchi) delivered a keynote on creativity and innovation and I think there is a lot that we can learn from the keynote.

You can watch the entire keynote here.

If you are tasked with coming up with innovation in your organisation, which typically, starts with coming up with creative ideas, I highly recommend that you watch the video, in full, and with a pen and paper to take notes.

Here are my notes from the talk. 

Creativity is the foundation of innovation. Innovation is the ability to execute well on creative ideas. 

All development (including evolution of species) comes from the edges. Nothing much changes from the middle. In all my talks and keynotes on creativity, I always recommend that the teams go for the craziest ideas that they can come up with and then work to make them more practical instead of looking for practical ideas. It is way better to take a crazy idea and make it practical (would still retain the craziness) than to take a practical idea and make it crazy.

We have all heard of the VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and ambiguous. He introduces another kind of world, one that is SUPER VUCA – Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding. I personally found this definition of VUCA a lot more practical and helpful than the one that we have all heard so often.

Ideas are precious little things. Ideas are fragile. We need to handle them with care! There are a lot of people who always look to kill ideas. There are very few people who want to protect ideas and allow them to grow and come to life. Let’s be the one’s who protect and help the ideas grow and come to life. Let’s also create a culture where this is the default behaviour.   

In such a SUPER VUCA world, we will succeed by building a culture which supports and nurtures creativity and ideas. We also need a culture that is able to execute on the idea and bring it alive.

Creativity is all about dreaming the magic pathway and innovation is all about building that pathway. 

Here are the characteristics of creative people. They start their days thinking about their ABC’s:

A – Ambition. What are they aiming for? What is the problem that they are trying to find and solve? 

B – Belief. They possess the self belief that they can and will achieve their ambition.

C – Courage. They have the courage to think the unthinkable, do the undoable, achieve what is impossible. They have the courage to look at their struggles and keep going. 

The people who actually end up implementing these ideas live their lives in 3D’s – Desire, Determination and Discipline. 

They are the kind of people who have the relentless persistence to achieve what they set out to achieve. They are willing to try something new, maybe fail or succeed, learn and continue to push the envelope until they bring their desire alive.  

People LIKE technology but people LOVE people. 

Being world class is not enough anymore; we need to be world changing!

Here is what he thinks about the difference between creativity and innovation:

He talks about how to create a culture of creativity.

IQ is about Intelligent quotient. Hire people who are intelligent and know what they are talking about.

EQ is about emotional quotient. These people need to have the emotional intelligence to work together in pursuit of creative ideas.

TQ is about Technology quotient. We need people who understand the current technology and what it can enable us to do. We need to be able to leverage technology to turn ideas to Innovation.

BQ is about bloody quick. We need to learn the skills to be quick to prototype, test the ideas, learn from these tests and move ahead. I think agility is a super power, only as long as we learn from our agile efforts.

CQ is the creativity quotient. This is about being creative day in and day out. This is also about having people who are willing to go to the edges of creative imagination.

On top of this, we give these employees these 4 things:

Responsibility, Learning, Recognition and Joy. All of these everyday at the same time. This is how we inspire them to do their best work. I’ve written recently about this as well. You can check out that post here.

Another insight that he shares is about the ERA of NEW vs the ERA of NOW.

He closes his talk by talking about the three E’s that are important to build a culture that supports creativity – Edge, Energy and Enthusiasm.

Conclusion:

I think that one of the differences between leadership and management is the ability to create a culture that supports creativity and innovation. If all we need is to follow the process and manage systems that are well run, we need managers. If we need to solve difficult problems which do not have a clear right answer, we need leaders.

And the world today is in need of leaders – good and great leaders. Let’s continue to learn and be the leader that we all have the potential to be. The world needs us and our son’s and daughter’s need us to be the best leader that we can be and continue to find ways to encourage creativity and innovation. Not just in business but in the social realm as well.

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