Some people think innovation is for geniuses.  It’s not. It does however require a basic understanding of creativity and risk taking…  and a desire to shape the future rather than be shaped by it.

Events don’t write our future.  It’s our response to those events that determines our future.  Every action we take has the ability to turn something ordinary into the extraordinary.

According to Gary Hamel, three of the most formidable challenges preventing an ordinary business from doing the extraordinary are challenges:

  1. Accelerating the pace of strategic renewal
  2. Making innovation everyone’s job, every day
  3. Creating a highly engaging work environment that inspires employees to give the very best of themselves

Creativity pervades each of these challenges.

Creativity is a matter of perspective.  Creativity is not magical or mystical. It’s just a moment where everything seems to click. The lens we choose to view the problem is critical. Our perspective holds the key whether the solutions is ordinary or extraordinary.  If you enter the situation with the wrong perspective, you don’t have a chance of finding an extraordinary solution.

Let’s take a look inside a civil engineering company.  For over two years the company continued to have its business slowly eroded by their primary competitor.

Senior leaders and team members had a deeply entrenched idea of what they believe their strengths were.  It can be hard to shift these perspectives without compelling data especially when dealing with engineers.

The team reluctantly selected the Creatrix assessment to assess its engineering team. The purpose was to determine why the organization was not able to make better progress in its innovation initiatives.

The Creatrix group chart below displays the scores of this team:

Creatrix assessment

The group average (represented by the diamond) places the team‘s average score in the Improver section of the section of the chart, although the Planners are well represented too. The primary difference between the two groups is the level of creativity; risk taking tolerance is relatively the same.

Regardless of the group title, nearly all of the team members fall into a more measured and incremental approach to change than the courageous, breakthrough approach to which they described their behavior and senior leadership expected.

More specifically, Improvers add value to the organization by “testing the waters.” They are willing to take a calculated risk as long as the benefits outweigh the status quo. As I mentioned above, Improvers add value by making modifications, one step at a time.

Planners can be a bit more creative but still are constrained by caution. They want information and data before making a decision or taking a risk.  While creative, most of their solutions fit within an existing paradigm or set of known parameters.

Let it be said that there is nothing wrong with the approach either the Improvers and Planners take…unless you are expecting and/or require “breakthrough” change.

As a result of the Creatrix, the team realized that they lacked the creativity, as a group, necessary to  really drive innovation to the limit it was expected. The Creatrix opened up a completely different discussion for this team and offered a blueprint for change.  Breakthrough ideas can come out of the Planner group if risk intolerance and “thinking inside the box” doesn’t squash it prematurely.

In an IBM study of 1500 global CEO‘s, two conclusions support what the Creatrix revealed for this engineering company.

  • Creativity has to be instilled throughout the organization because of the highly  complex and global business environment we live in today. Every individual needs to be made more aware of his or her own creative capacities, and to leverage these in daily work activities.
  • New perspectives are required to develop creative and innovative ways of managing an organization‘s structure, finances, people and strategy.  The ability of leaders and managers to operative innovatively, leveraging their creativity and risk taking within an organization is a crucial source of success today.

The IBM study offers organizations like the engineering firm a call to action.  Creativity is crucial to every organization‘s long term survival and ability to thrive in a complex world.  The Creatrix provides not only the necessary insight and understanding of the innovative capacities of an organization, it offers teams and individuals the ability to delve into multiple facets of creativity and risk taking to drive stronger individual and team performance.