Innovation, Creativity and You?

Abundance Collaboration Transformation


Key Point: Organizations are expecting us to be creative and innovative, individually and collectively. If we are in formal leadership roles, we are also expected to develop and implement processes that ignite results-driven innovation. So is innovation kind of an unplanned spark? Current research suggests that sitting around waiting for an “ah ha” moment is definitively the wrong way to trigger right-brain creative activity.

As noted in a recent Big Think blog by Jonah Lehrer

“What gets the alpha waves flowing, facilitating the semi-dream-state in which we’re best able to connect those unlikely dots, is a change of scenery – a long aimless walk, for example, or travel abroad. In this sense, the Internet, an endless web of discovery and rabbit holes to alternate dimensions, is an enormous creativity machine.”

What is your individual and leadership process for driving creative innovation?

Lehrer explains in his new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, that neuroscientists are focusing on inspiration as a function of the right hemisphere of the brain (the less literal half that exceeds at making associations between things that don’t obviously go together). And there is further evidence that it is often the outsider who is best able to “think outside of the box” in order to approach longstanding problems in an entirely new way. That is another reason why accelerating diversity and collaboration in its fullest sense is so important to organizations. In our financial institution we’re trying to get people to think outside of the “vault.” Diversity in every sense, along with investing in collaboration skills is a priority.

What if we could harness the web’s unique power to enable unlikely insights? That was Eli Lilly’s intention when it helped to develop InnoCentive, (a crowdsourcing site where it could post its thorniest R&D problems for anyone to solve, and reap a monetary reward). InnoCentive was designed to expand Eli Lilly’s brainpower, by tapping into a larger pool of innovators than the company could ever employ. 30 to 50 percent of the problems posted on InnoCentive were solved. A study by Karim Lakhani at Harvard Business School shows that experts outside of the field, (chemistry problems solved by physicists, engineering problems solved by chemists, etc.) solved most problems on InnoCentive.

This is further evidence that it is often the outsider who is best able to “think outside of the box,” to approach longstanding problems in an entirely new way or take the conversation in a completely different direction. This happens precisely because he/she isn’t constrained by the “common sense” of the discipline.

Character move:

  1. Recognize that innovation and creativity is a process, individually and collectively.
  2. Develop your own personal process and approach to innovation and creativity.
  3. Embrace the fullest definition of diversity to embrace thinking outside the box.
  4. Clearly defining the problem you want to solve is a skill. Cause and effect are not closely related in space and time. The up front clarity and work at getting insight on this is critical to accelerate innovation.
  5. Harness the web to help get creative and innovative solutions. And learn about Silicon Valley’s IDEO; arguably one of the best companies in the world at translating innovation into huge commercial success.

Creativity and innovation in The Triangle,