Want to Innovate? | Part One

Arm Your Employees with Solid Creative Work Habits

by Rebecca Johnson

Nearly two years ago, with what started as a deceptively simple request, “Our clients want to better understand how to innovate. Can you dig into that?” Sure thing. I modified my news feeds and started following industry leaders on anything and everything related to innovation. As it turns out, innovation can’t happen if there are no new ideas. Seems obvious, I know. But, I was surprised at how little conversation there was about idea generation itself. (I’m just now starting to see a shift toward this.) As a trained researcher, I started digging further into the concept of “creativity” – which at its essence is the process of generating new ideas. At the onset of my journey, I saw a report where in the top 10 needed skills for employees, “creativity” jumped from #10 in 2015 to a predicted  #3 in 2020. Yikes. That’s right around the corner. And, just this past August, Capital One released  survey results  that say, “82% of office professionals believe companies can't encourage innovation unless their workplace environment is innovative.” Double yikes. But, what in the world does an “innovative environment” even look like?

Before we get to that, I think there are some issues that need to be addressed.

  1. Adjust the way you think about creativity – and perhaps spend less resources looking for creative “unicorns” to hire. (You most likely have some hiding in plain sight.)
  2. Expand your understanding of what “work” looks like, especially if you want your people to generate more ideas.
  3. Give people the tools they need to create, then give them space (literal and metaphorical) to do it.

Creativity is a Skill Everyone Can Develop and Practice

Yes, you’ll need processes and an  innovation pipeline  in place, but it will sit empty if you can’t get people to create new ideas to fill that pipeline. First, all humans are creative in varying degrees and in  varying ways. Yes, some people may be more creative than others in specific domains (e.g., sciences or arts), but we all have the capacity to create because it's a process. This classic process  involves specific work habits around four activities: preparation, incubation, insight (or illumination), and verification. With work habits that support these activities, we all can increase our everyday ability to be creative, regardless of what your area of expertise is. How? By honoring how we naturally come up with new ideas.

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