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:
- “I’m not a creative person, in general.”
- “I enjoy to express emotions and thoughts in my free time, which helps me connect with other like-minded people.”
- “I have an artistic talent that helps me have a hobby and create works of art, music, arts, drama, etc. “
- “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.