Invest in Innovation by Growing Creativity: How to Love and not Fear the “C” Word Behind Innovation

In a recent Silicon Valley Watcher post, Founder/Publisher Tom Foremski blogged about “10 Reasons Why This is a Great Time to Invest in Innovation.” At the end of his post, which listed many excellent reasons why now, in an economic downturn, it is an excellent time to innovate, Tom concluded with: “The next upturn will be led by what I call New Rules Enterprises, these are organizations that are highly efficient and have made the most of the economies of Internet 2.0.”

I agree with the ideas in Tom’s post, but I feel the need to add a few important thoughts to his last statement. Being highly efficient is often desirable, but only when accompanied by an allowance for creativity and free thinking that cannot always be timed precisely to the minute and packed neatly into a box.

The severity of our economic circumstances pressures organizations and their managers into cutting costs—and time—in many ways, often in what turns out to be a short-sighted attempt to sustain the company; but in the longer term, this damages its future by reigning in—or stifling—innovation. This not only bankrupts an organization’s future; it causes severe loss of employee morale, especially when coupled with lay-offs and stacking extra responsibilities on the shoulders of the employees that remain. Employees often end up feeling anxious, yet apathetic, which is the antithesis of what we think of as the “flow” state required to create, to enjoy one’s life and work, and to feel fulfilled.

Following are two video clips from the TED Talks, from a best-selling author, and a psychologist who has devoted his life’s work to the study of creativity and innovation in business. I hope you’ll feel inspired and renewed by watching them. They each passionately remind us that creativity is the main ingredient in innovation, and instead of being afraid of the “C” word, which often seems to suggest images of being too wild and out of control compared to the tamer “innovation”—we must embrace creativity and encourage creative thinking in all employees to gain the most benefit for our organization’s or project’s development and sustainable growth.

First, here is Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love, who both moves and humors us about our fears of creativity and teaches us something valuable about how to cope with both “successes” and “failures”:

Next, a TED video from a master of creativity—the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about the concept of Flow, also the name of his first classic book on the creative process, and being engaged in a focused state of ecstasy. Using examples from his studies of creativity and innovation in composers, authors, corporate CEOs and his own students, he discusses how human happiness is related to creativity and living in the state of flow, and how to achieve it:

We might remember this quote from one of our most creative advertising trailblazers:

“The majority of businessmen are incapable of original thought because they are unable to escape from the tyranny of reason.” — David Ogilvy

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One Comment

  1. Posted February 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    One of my clients is Sohrab Vossoughi of Ziba Design. He would agree with you. He would probably say today’s marketplace demands companies learn how to be effective, not just efficient. Efficiency was the mantra of the industrial age — make lots of the same stuff as cheaply as possible with lean manufacturing. Today people look for more than low cost convenience. We look for meaning, relationships, personalization and only effectiveness gets a company there. Effectiveness requires constant innovation but the approach also puts a company in the position of being in better sync with its customers which leads to more innovation.

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