Fareed Zakaria of CNN has a terrific series on innovation where he interviews top innovation thinkers on how to spur creativity. We can all awaken the sleeping giant in each of our companies by spurring innovation in our own areas of influence.
To lead for creativity and innovation:
- Hire people with natural curiosity and a desire for continual learning. Innovation and creativity comes from a desire to do things differently and people who are curious, life-long learners ask questions like “why?” and “why not?”
- Hire people who execute ideas. Idea generators are the engine of innovation. Those who execute are the steering wheel. Without those who can take the ideas from just ideas to ideas that work, you’ll never get where the innovation has the potential to go.
- Engage people in interesting business issues. People get creative when there is a tough nut to crack. The next time your team has a difficult challenge facing them, rather than sitting in your office trying to find the solution, pull together a group of your best talent and ask them to solve the problem. If you’ve seen Apollo 13, think about the scene where the engineers need to find a solution to an oxygen deletion problem by making a square filter fit in a round hole. They’re given a box of materials that are on the lunar module, told their mission and told to make it happen.
- Make innovation part of the ongoing conversation. Be careful how you position innovation in the conversation. When you throw around the words ‘innovation’ and ‘creativity’ most people respond with something like ‘oh, I’m not very creative’ or ‘people like me don’t innovate. Those are the guys at Google.’ However, if you ask, ‘how can we make things run more smoothly’ or ‘how can we add more value to our customers’ or ‘what would really make a difference in how we work’, everyone will have an idea.
- Create space to develop the best ideas. Give each of your team members the challenge and the space to spend time thinking about their part of the business and where they could take it. Thinking often takes a back seat to doing in our culture but it is essential to innovation.
Hire the right mix. Engage them in meaty issues. Have a continual dialogue. Give the space to think and act. Awaken the sleeping giant within.