Organizations don't need creative leaders, they need ways to channel creativity

Innosight Venture’s Scott Anthony comments on the recent IBM CEO study in a Harvard Business Review blog post, “Are You Tapping Your Creativity Capacity?” He says it’s not about the leader’s creativity, it’s about the organizational support for creativity, creative thinking and creative behaving. (see NIND blog post Creativity named #1 leadership skill for CEO’s)

He has a point.  Focusing only on a leader’s  creative capacity does not unleash creativity throughout an organization. Paying attention to the unlimited creative potential of staff is important as well.  For new ideas and new decisions to occur it’s a both/and. In the past when leaders asked me to ‘fix’ their people, to help them be more creative, I’d say okay. Now I reply,  “Are you open to learning some new leadership behaviours as well?”ceo creativity?

Plenty of studies show factors that contribute to organizational climates which allow freedom of thought.  The ones we work with are: Diversity of views, commitment to task (engagement), person support (affect, resources), time, freedom to choose how a task gets accomplished, balance of different ways to approach a task (multi task and/or step-by-step), informality and idea support.  These factors source originally from Dr. Goren Ekvall’s climate studies in Sweden and Dr. Gwen Speranzini’s research advancing his work. (I wrote about it in Quick Guide to the Four Temperaments in Creativity: a psychological understanding of innovation, fyi)

Channeling the unlimited creative potential in organizations requires behaviour shifts and attitude changes.  Think today’s CEO’s are open to that?

From the HBR blog post
…..I believe that human capital isn’t the problem. Organizations tap a mere fraction of their creative capacity. I’ve seen companies — even ones that from the outside look staid and stuck in their ways — produce beautifully creative ideas, and wonderfully creative plans…on paper.
Of course, banks don’t accept business plans as legal tender. And that’s the problem. Most companies don’t have the systems and structures to turn paper plans into profits. I call this the “First Mile” problem.
Trying to increase individual creativity without addressing the factors that cause the First Mile problem — namely human resources, strategy, resource allocation, metrics, and incentives — is destined to disappoint.
Working on those factors, however, could provide rocket fuel to a company’s innovation efforts, by releasing the constrained creativity languishing in most organizations. Organizations don’t really need more creative leaders. They need to organize in a way that channels their untapped but inherent creativity.

You can learn hands-on about climate factors to crack open new ways of thinking in organizations at the Creative Problem Solving Institute in Buffalo this June.

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