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There is nothing mysterious about creativity. Contrary to what many writers write and to the many so-called myths out there; it is not a brain thing or a province of just a few. As a matter of fact everybody is creative every day. We never do the same thing twice – from brushing your teeth to writing your name. Although we think we do these things the same, there are small differences from each repetition that will never appear again. We don’t think about these changes as creativity but they are.Some people are able to recognize these changes and capitalize on them where others are not. Many organizations aren’t able to capture them either.
Numerous inventions that we use and enjoy every day come from someone who accidentally noticed some variation from what normally happened. Maybe you remember the story of how the microwave oven came about. Or, perhaps one of these accidental inventions that are all the result of someone noticing unrelated activity. Although all companies want creativity and innovation most are not prepared to support it. Alan Robinson of the University of Massachusetts reports, “In every case studied (600 creative acts) the truly innovative aspects of the creative acts ended once they reached the level of management.” Over the years we have seen huge differences in the ability of a company to support a creative idea. Years ago 3M, in my opinion, was clearly the exemplar. They had a process that included time and funds to be used to support employees with creative ideas. In 1977 CEO Lou Lehr started The Challenge ’81, a program aimed at achieving 25% of all sales from products with less than five years on the market.
Later it was 30% every four years. All technical people were expected to follow the 15% rule which was that they dedicate 15% of their time to projects of their own choosing. As one 3M CEO put it, “No matter how large 3M becomes, the spirit of innovation will stay intact as long as people have the freedom to pursue their ideas.” For over 100 years, 3M Company was designed for creativity and it has certainly paid off handsomely. Does your company encourage creativity? Here is a checklist to see how your organization (to include supervision and management) rates in supporting creativity and innovation.
If you answered “no” to more than half of the above items, it’s a strong indication that creativity and innovation are not being encouraged in your organization. Use this opportunity to change that. Learn all you can about fostering creativity. Regardless of title, we all can play a part in that. And, who knows, you or someone you encourage, may just be the next person to come up with that billion dollar idea!
© Aubrey Daniels International, Inc. All rights reserved. 2021