Creative awareness: Hidden innovation obstacle for organizations

This is a guest post by Chris Grivas, principal of Chris Grivas Consulting ( an organizational and leadership development consultancy focused on increasing the creative capacity of individuals, teams, and organizations. He is co-author of THE INNOVATIVE TEAM: Unleashing Creative Potential For Breakthrough Results.

A recent IBM study of more than 1500 executives around the world showed that an overwhelming majority of these seasoned leaders were not fully confident that they were prepared to respond effectively to rapid change and dealing with change was one of their biggest challenges. Their number one suggestion? Adopt creativity as a core leadership skill. As Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrysler observed, “Leadership is all about managing change – whether you are leading a company or a country. Things change, and you get creative.”

The faster things change, many experts say, the stronger your creative thinking and problem solving skills need to be. To successfully compete in the 21st Century, leaders are calling for increased training in creative thinking everywhere from boardrooms to elementary classrooms.

This is why so many organizations emphasize innovation — new products, new services, new business models, new markets, new forms of operations, etc. Look at your own organization’s vision, mission or values statement. If it is like most, innovation will be mentioned prominently. So everyone strives to be innovative, but few succeed. Why? The reality is that organizations have a hard time being truly innovative without awareness of how they apply their creative thinking.

The way in which humans redefine problems, imagine new possibilities and then to bring these breakthroughs to life has been consistent throughout human history – since we first needed to hunt for our food – but scientists only began researching it over the last 50 years or so. So what does the research tell us?

  1. The creative process is universal. All humans with normally functioning brains engage in creative thinking. We apply our creative thinking to everyday problems, like when you are missing an ingredient to a recipe or a part to a broken piece of machinery, and to larger societal problems, such as keeping the economy moving forward, reducing crime or improving education.
  2. The creative process has four predictable steps to it. A central theme of our book, The Innovative Team, is that the creative process can be boiled down to four distinct steps – Clarify the Situation, Generate Ideas, Develop Solutions and Implement Plans. Whether you are a CEO, a plumber, an artisanal cheese maker, or someone planning a birthday party, you follow this pattern when you need to use your imagination to improve the way things are done, develop new products, or fix things that are broken.
  3. We are not all equally creative, but we can improve our creativity. Sorry to say that we are not all Edisons, Fords, Zuckerbergs, Rowlings, or Spielbergs. The good news is no matter what your natural set point is for creative thinking; it can be enhanced through training and practice. More than 70 research studies agree that individuals can be taught to be more effective creative thinkers.

Rather than focusing on how much creativity you have, try to understand how you prefer to use your creative thinking – knowing and applying your creative strengths. The Innovative Team is designed to demystify the topics of creativity and innovation so that they are accessible to everyone.

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