One challenge, common in highly technical organisations, is how to unleash creative capability in order to achieve competitive edge at the same time as maintaining technical excellence. Leaders often implement people strategies that are designed to deliver cultural cohesion when in many cases, there is real value in encouraging both a parallel culture of dissent and a desire to find creative way to solve problems. Operating outside of the established norms can create an opportunity for organisations to tap into their latent creative talent as well as allowing them to adapt and thrive in an increasingly challenging marketplace.
A recent Harvard Business Review article, reiterates this approach, outlining what leaders can do to build non-conformity and original thinking into the fabric of their organisation, and unleashing a teams’ creative talent is easier than you might think. Perhaps surprisingly, you have only to look to your own people for everything you need - the best creative talent comes from your existing workforce.
When first thinking about how to get going on creative problem solving and ideas generation, it’s important to note that ‘volume begets quality’ - the more ideas that are generated, the more will continue to be thought of and the more likely you are to find quality ideas. Creating a space and an environment in which employees can throw ideas around is essential, and simple questions and techniques can be used for focussed ideas generation. A typical question might be to ask how ‘a competitor’ might try to put your company out of business?
As well as being proficient at generating the ideas, an effective sifting or vetting process is important to find the best ideas and to reward those whose ideas are adopted, which also helps to encourage even more engagement. Most businesses find that the best people to assess the ideas are other innovators and if all employees are to be part of the vetting process then their opinions can be weighted according to their track record in prediction and evaluation.
When leaders encourage and reward employees to bring creativity to the table, companies can significantly increase productivity and make savings. Both cohesion and dissent can co-exist and asking your employees to provide ‘loyal opposition’ to the prevailing culture, is key to avoiding organisational tunnel vision. In this way companies can remain dynamic and agile and profitable.