Inclusive creativity for prototyping

Why: Most of the time, individuals wait for their leaders to identify problems with innovation potential. 

What: Believing in your creative ability can boost the confidence in taking initiative and proactively seek potential changes or opportunities. In particular, individuals with non-creative roles may perceive themselves non-creative.  

How: Inclusive creativity could play an important role in developing working habits that lead to change and innovation. Preparing the ground for the manifestation of inclusive creativity can be done in two steps. 1. Get a common agreement on the meaning and importance of creativity for innovative performance. 2. Allow expressions of individual creative strengths for continuous innovation.

If you are in charge of the innovation strategy in your company, who are the professionals you’d like to have in your team? What roles and skills should they have? 

Some people have a technical role. Others have a non-technical role. 

Some people are extroverts. Others are introverts.

Some people may be good at executing while others may be good at strategic thinking.

Once you selected your people, of diverse expertise and skills, how could you support them to proactively seek potential problems, changes or opportunities? When it comes to the discovery of new problems to investigate for innovation purpose, creative thinking plays an important role.  

The application of innovation methods, such as Lean, Design Thinking or TRIZ, are useful but not sufficient guides for innovation. For innovation to happen, individuals need deep knowledge, useful methodologies and the desire to get out of the comfort zone and experiment with new ideas originating from insight. Insight happens after being immersed into a problem for an extended period of time, when an unconscious idea makes it to the surface of consciousness. Insight, not a particular innovation theory or methodology, is the real competitive advantage reflected in a prototype solution.  

Every human brain has a creative function. When an individual is engaged in an open-ended task, the executive attention network, the default mode network and the salience network are the three brain networks that get activated at different stages of the creative process. When there’s no way to tell we’ve arrived at a suitable solution, we face an ill-structured problem, which is precisely the kind of problem we’re dealing with when we want to innovate. In the attempt to ask new questions and identify novel problems, divergent and hypothetical thinking are set in motion. However, some highly skilled professionals may limit themselves from engaging in activities that boost these creative thinking skills because they don’t perceive creativity to be part of their professional identity.  

Depending on our sense of identity, previous experiences and influences in the socio-cultural environment, we may have one or more of the following four relationships with creativity: 

  1. “I’m not a creative person, in general.” 
  2. “I enjoy to express emotions and thoughts in my free time, which helps me connect with other like-minded people.”
  3. “I have an artistic talent that helps me have a hobby and create works of art, music, arts, drama, etc. “
  4. “My creativity helps me stand out through original ideas and perspectives on problems at work”.

Leaders have the power to influence the way their people value and use creativity at work. It is a matter of leadership choice, whether to acknowledge or not the creative skills of the people who, directly or indirectly, are involved with innovation. The choice to encourage in-house experts to think and act in creative ways implies that leaders believe in creativity to be important for getting innovative ideas. The effect of such choice is twofold. 

First, by saying yes to creativity, leaders may initiate discussions about what organizational efforts would be suitable to encourage the creative-self belief in the experts who may not strongly identify as creative individuals. 

Second, both the more creative and the less creative individuals could have the freedom to create a space to experiment and purposefully exercise creative strengths, like openness to experience, imaginary skills, insight-related abilities or selling creative ideas.

This is the inclusive creativity, the organizational value that recognizes the individual’s creative ability to tackle open-ended problems, irrespective the essence of a specific professional role has a creative nature or not.



Interview with John Bates, Leadership Communication Expert and Coach: On rephrasing as an aspect of creativity, creativity in business, abundance meditation, and openness to intuition

How to Respond to the Early Signs of Vulnerability to Boost Psychological Safety

“I might as well shut up because you people don’t get me. I must be stupid.” These were the frustrated words of one participant in a training I conducted some time ago. My role was to guide the participants in developing their entrepreneurial competence. We were brainstorming on how to bring the participants’ entrepreneurial ideas to life when the angry participant – let’s call her Julia – made the comment.

A long silence followed. As the silence was prolonging, Julia became anxious and started collecting her stuff from the working table.

“Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.” I replied. “It seems we have a misunderstanding. The good thing is that we are all here to learn and maybe help others get insights. How about you explained your concern one more time? Maybe in a different way this time?”

Julia straightened her posture and continued the dialogue. She attended the training till the last workshop. Thanks to her, I became aware that vulnerability is at the heart of a psychologically safe environment. To signal to others around you that you are emotionally wounded, you must take a leap of faith and trust that they will care about your affliction.

The psychologically safe environment is gradually and effortfully created thanks to those participants who are the first ones to dare to speak about their concerns and perceived personal limitations to reach a goal. Should the audience be insensitive, you withdraw like a tortoise in your shell. But if the audience is showing that they care, you accept that you have a shell to carry and maybe start planning alternative paths forwards your destination point. As for Julia, by the end of the course, she got empowered to start looking for a team with which she could build a start-up.

To cultivate an authentic culture of vulnerability, positive and responsive relationships are needed to help the group members realize that others can be trusted. Here are three key elements to create responsive relationships between leaders and members of the group:

  • Exercise empathy – Look beyond the possible signs of hostility or dislike and bring to awareness the journey of the respective person. What kind of experiences might she have had recently, which influenced her perception and interpretations of what’s going on in the group?

During my short interactions with Julia, I came to understand that she was going through a rough patch. Her mind was cluttered by the indecision of going entrepreneurial, as a single mother in a country, which was not her native country.

Moreover, she had joined the entrepreneurial course somewhere in the middle. Hence, she may have felt occasionally that she didn’t belong to the group.

  • Communicate with clarity – First, show appreciation for others’ courage to speak up about perceived flaws. Second, remind the interaction rules of the team. For example, when I start a new training, I dedicate 15 minutes discussing the rules we’ll play by. And three of the rules are to be kind and constructive with others, and honest to your emotions and thoughts. In moments of possible conflict, I bring out to attention the expectation to respect the rules. Third, keep focus on the common goal of the group and what is the problem that each individual wants to solve.
  • Reciprocate others’ vulnerability with your vulnerability. Initiate one-to-one conversations with the person who dared to talk about her vulnerability. The intention is to form a candid connection and concomitantly be mindful to send other signals establishing your competence. (Adam Grant, 2014, Give and Take, Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.)

At the end of the workshop, I had a chat with Julia to get to know her equally much as I knew the other participants. How did she feel about being a mother? What drove her into looking into other career options?

At some point during our chat, I told her I sometimes feel I’m not communicating clearly enough. Whenever I feel that way, I’d go ahead and say “I’m sorry. Please let me rephrase.” I thus related to Julia’s feelings by admitting I can also fail in getting others. At the same time, I shed light on my purposeful and constant focus on formulating my sentences so it can be easier for my audience to understand me. (Heidi Grant Halvorson, 2015, No One Understands You and What to Do about It).

Julia’s spirit livened up. So did mine.

In personal interactions, in between the seconds of disconnection and connection, we have the fleeting pause of vulnerability. Maintaining a good level of sharing doubts, frustrations, and anxiety in a group resumes to the hard task of being sensitive and taking a break to stay with the vulnerability instead of going ahead with the next topic on the agenda. Through empathy, clear communication and reciprocated vulnerability, group leaders can influence the engagement of members to do the best work that they can possibly do.

The English translation of the Smocka interview : Entrepreneurs talk about how it is to be your own boss: “Dare to take risks!”

On May 2nd, I got an email from a journalism student who asked if I’d like to meet her for a 20 minutes interview about the Shark Tank event, in Luckan Integration, where I participated as a shark. 

Here below, you can read the English translation of the interview, which was published in Swedish.  

Entrepreneurs talk about how it is to be your own boss: “Dare to take risks!”

Oana Velcu-Laitinen is a career coach and started her own coaching company Velcu Coaching, two years ago. Between Autumn 2017 and Spring 2018, she developed and taught the Entrepreneurial Competence module of the course, Introduction to Business. The course was part of the integration program, joint cooperation between Helsinki Luckan and Arbis. At the end of the course, a Shark Tank event was organised where Oana was invited to be one of the sharks.

“We helped the participants understand how to further develop their business ideas. To understand what the next step is.”, Oana says.

Velcu-Laitinen explains that it is easy to start a company, in Helsinki. It is a question of few hours to fill in the application and the bureaucracy is minimal. For the first year, she received a startup grant from the state-owned company Newco Helsinki, whose aim is to increase the number of established companies in Helsinki. 

“It’s a good experience, because the application forces you to sit down and analyze your business idea. It’s important to think of who your target audience is and how to promote yourself.”

Velcu-Laitinen says that those who want to found a business need a business plan. Many new entrepreneurs have optimistic expectations of future income and expenses.

“It’s wiser to build your business based on realistic expectations. The stream of revenues can be a big problem, so it’s good if you have a financial adviser. The future is, of course, full of surprises, you can face difficulties and successes that you never thought of.”

Oana’s tips on starting your own business:

1. What are your interests? Choose one and make it your job!
2. Be courageous and confident – believe in your idea.
3. It’s worth taking the risk, but think how to minimize it.