The Era of the Creator

I sat in the office waiting for a debriefing on my job interview. I didn’t get a management position from this organization. The senior executive spoke to me cordially about me doing a good job. I pressed him for more specifics so that I could improve myself on the next job interview. He candidly mentioned that my outside interest (writing, talkshow appearances, TV interviews) was a distraction to this position. It was apparent that this older gentleman wasn’t ‘feeling my creativity.’ In fact, I felt he didn’t like it. I politely thanked him. I knew I was a marked men his mind due to showcasing my creativity. During this period and in this organization, creativity was not deemed a valuable asset to the organization. 

 

Over the past eight months, 1.8 million people without jobs left the labor market. In fact, their pessimism was so great that they gave up looking for employment. Hidden beneath these numbers are the underemployed. Tennessee Congressman John Duncan Jr. notes, “Underemployment is probably even higher, with far too many having to work at low-paying jobs for which they are over-qualified.”

 With the unemployment rate continuing to rise, individuals are perplexed as to what is the best decision to make for their careers. If more jobs are needed, it will take organizations that possess the ability of innovation. Given this premise, this discussion examines how managers can infuse their organizations with creativity, thereby surviving and defeating disruptive change.  Organizations must develop their workforce to be a collection of innovators and creators. Gary Hamel, author of Leading the Revolution, notes “Industrial revolutionaries will exploit any protective urge, any hesitancy on the part of the oligarchy…In the nonlinear world, only nonlinear ideas will create new wealth.” 

Unfortunately, many of today’s managers are not equip to think in nonlinear ways. Their extensive experiences become a liability during disruptive change. As American businesses battle their global competitors with the scientific management strategy, market shares continue to take a downward spiral. Everyday disruptive change breaks down traditional organization strategies. What worked yesterday will not work in this harsh environment. Therefore, organizations move cautiously into the future. Therefore, the nation stares at impending danger.

However, creativity may be one of the biggest weapons to fend off competitors. Creativity is the process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas. It involves a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. Organizations do not understand how to infuse creativity.

Creative genius Michael Michalko argues that innovation does not happen by chance: “It [creativity] is not a result of some easily learned magic trick or secret, but a consequence of your intention to be creative and your determination to learn and use creative-thinking strategies.”

Companies need to determine how they will use innovation as a competitive advantage. In fact, creative people need to work in environments that stimulate, grow, and enhance their abilities. In taking this step, they need to create a culture that supports these gifted individuals by rewarding them and giving them opportunities to growth. When organizations get serious about maximizing their creativity, they will be laying the groundwork for a sustainable future.

The future is ripe for creators. Sadly, globalization has become a menacing threat to some businesses. Therefore, the major challenge for contemporary institutions is to produce workers who are intelligent, creative, and internationally savvy to handle the challenges of the 21st century. Trend expert Henrik Vejlgaard insists that creative people often set new trends. These create people include poets, authors, actors, architects, singers, and other gifted individuals. High performance organizations across the globe will seek these creative groups out if they want to sustain market advantages and sustain profitability.  

American humorist Erma Bombeck said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”  Truly, creative individuals want to fully use their talents and feel appreciate. In contemporary organizations, innovation and creativity often falter as a major priority. Management strategist Stanley Gryskiewicz argues that turbulence associated with change can be a positive force for innovation. In fact, finding innovative ways to jumpstart tomorrow’s engineers is a great concern for businesses that want to remain relevant in the 21st century.

How do contemporary organizations take steps to infuse creativity in their organizations? What can creative employees submerged in bureaucracies do to sustain their creative juices?

© 2010 by Daryl D. Green 

 

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26 thoughts on “The Era of the Creator

  1. I read an article in a magazine of an IT employee who was bored with his job. He was a recent college graduate and was looking for more to do with his life. He was infatuated with comics and simply being funny. He recently started a company that has continued to grow rapidly. He made it a point to hire young aspiring minds from various backgrounds and who specialized in various forms of humor. This has allowed his company to grow profitably and reach nearly anyone who wishes to be amused for at least 5 minutes out of their busy day. With the aid of his personal creativity and feeding on the creative writing abilities of each new employee he hires; he gains a competitive advantage over the normal agency attempting to hire great writers with proven excellence.

    Here is a website listing 100 Most Creative People in Business. http://www.fastcompany.com/100/

  2. Contemporary organizations are infusing creativity by giving employees more opportunities to enlighten management with their ideas. As discussed earlier in the semester, many companies in India are allowing younger employees to sit in on upper management decisions and submit their ideas on issues. This is a good decision on upper management’s part in that the younger generation has not had the opportunity to get into a “rut” by handling issues the same way older employees might handle them due to their experiences. These younger employees have fresh new ideas to approach opportunities and allows the company to try new things.

    In companies that do not allow entry-level employees to express their opinions, creativity obviously is harder to instill into the company. Creative-minded employees must suggest new ideas to their managers and hope they will listen and possibly implement their ideas.

  3. Contemporary organizations could effectively and efficiently infuse creativity by signing onboard a diverse work force. Diversity of age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and capabilities will ensure different methods and points of view in tackling problems. Not only organizational diversity is expected in today’s global economy, but it also helps an organization retain and expand its diverse stakeholders. The most immediate set of forces that affects an organization (Task environment: competitors, distributors, customers, and suppliers) is becoming exponentially more diverse as well. In our class we talked about factors that could hinder an organization becoming diverse. For example, discrimination, stereotyping, and sexual harassment all encumber organizational diversity, which in turn hampers organizational creativity and innovation. What’s the use of having a diverse workforce without using their knowledge that comes from different backgrounds? Therefore, worker involvement is equally important.

    There are many other ways to infuse creativity in contemporary organizations but ensuring workforce diversity and worker involvement is a sure way to take a step forward in today’s globalization. Furthermore, better hedging against disruptive change could be another by-product of this diversity and worker involvement.

    Reference: Jones, G & George J. (2008). Contemporary Management (6th Edition).
    New York, NY: McGrawhill/Irwin.

  4. In order to succeed in today’s economy, businesses have to find creative ways to handle challenges of 21st century. What was effective yesterday will not work tomorrow, which creates risks of losing customers to those who were able to adapt to the new environment. Great example of creativity infusion is Apple Corporation. They [Apple Corp.] found a way to stay ahead of market’s trends and potential needs. Apple management promotes creativity and innovations. We can see the results, but how did they manage to get to this point? Many corporations create a certain set of rules that make it difficult for their employers to be creative, because they have to follow policies step by step. It is unfortunate for some companies to lose creative employees due to bureaucracies that have been created within the companies. Giving employees more freedom will increase level of creativity and number of innovative ideas.

    • Alla and Cassie, building upon your point, I agree that apple is a prime example of innovation and creativity. I would like to add that in my opinion a very important factor in this company’s ability to lead the market in innovation is the fact that the highest level of management held that position at a younger age:

      “In the late 1970s, Jobs, with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Mike Markkula and others, designed, developed, and marketed some of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers, the Apple II series and later, the Macintosh. ” (Wikipedia)

      Steve Jobs was born in 1955 so in the late 1970s he was in his 20s. I believe holding a top level management position at that young age has a lot to do with Apple’s current innovative and creative organizational culture.

      • Steve Jobs was probably a Gen Y before there was a Gen Y! The best way to infuse creativity is with creativity. There have been stories of the Golden Age of Atari where at the head quarters there were hot tubs, gyms, bars, parties, and drugs, to help the video game programers to be creative. But on a more recent and legal example is Amazon with on site massages, entertainment rooms, etc. I am usually most creative when I am doing something fun and creative than I am siting in my office. Anything recreational will help those creative juices to flow. Also, alot of my ideas come to me at home in a comfortable enviroment or when I am socializing with my friends, so a company like Amazon is helping to establish that atmosphere.

  5. One approach that an organization can take to embrace more creativity is to emulate other companies which epitimize creativity, namely Google. However, there’s the issue of battling numerous biases which will undoubtedly interfere with implementation of this idea. There’s presently too many baby bomers in control of corporate America to be persuaded at present to radically introduce creativity on any significant scale. From an ideology perspective, I would support “Googlenance” (my term for a new post industrial revolution renaissance marked by creativity on a scale never seen before). It’s hard to believe that there would be creative employees working in a bureaucracy, but if so, I would recommend he/she try their best to get promoted to a management position. Then, as manager, he/she should implement Total Quality Management (TQM) within the department so that all beareau employees are encouraged to be creative / innovative, and offer monetary rewards to employess who can demonstrate cost savings through their creativity.

  6. In order for contemporary organizations to be successful they must create an organizational design that encourages creativity. Recognizing that creativity is the precursor to innovation and technological advancements, not limited to a select few that are tasked with product design and development.
    Companies need to be inclusive, “Get everyone involved. The most creative organizations encourage a democracy of ideas(Gelb).” Allow all members from all departments to explore creative solutions to problems in the company. Diverse perspectives may provide ideas and solutions that would have otherwise been overlooked.
    Finally, all organizations must be receptive to new ideas. While some ideas may prove to be impractical or unreasonable it is imperative that employee’s feel their input is taken seriously. Positive feedback and dialogue about new ideas should be a standard response from organizational leaders. Those ideas that are implemented and are successful should be publicly recognized by the organization.

    Gelb, Michael.(2009) “1-on-1: Creativity in Your Business.” Retrieved from
    http://www.successmagazine.com/1on1-creativity-in-your-business/PARAMS/article/805

  7. I like the points that were brought up by Alla, Cassie, and Ryan. I especially agree with the point Ryan made that Apple’s openness to creativity had a lot to do with Jobs and the other co-founders being of an unusual young age for CEO status. Unfortunately, the ability to infuse creativity into an organization relies mostly on upper management. If personnel in upper management and in hiring positions follow status que and traditional beliefs, applicants with creative traits will probably never be hired.
    In order to infuse creativity it must be a top down approach. With that, the creativity infused must still be focus toward a goal. It is great to have new, outside the box ideas and approaches, but if an end goal can not be accomplished than it is useless.

  8. Creativity should be approached by upper level managers that are known as “traditional, old school” type of individuals. Everyone is looking for an edge, and I would hope that executives realize that keeping an organization in the top of their field would mean looking outside their “traditional” ways. I am giving executives the benefit of the doubt to know that a change is needed and creativity may be the means to achieve success. Intrapreneurs are found in every organization, but are they utilized to their fullest potential? Highlighting

    • Good passion about the topic, Brandi. Can you get a little deeper? As American businesses continue to crumble under huge global competition, what has to happen to awakening the sleeping giant?

      • The only threat I see that will “opens the eyes” of management is the possibility of them losing their jobs. Even today I see transformations of managers who are attempting to turn around the loss of revenues due to their job being in jeopardy. When it hits home, perhaps that will be the turning point of a company. A fresh outlook or change in management usually has a positive outcome.

  9. Most of the comments posted are leaning towards it has to start at the top and work its way down. Is it not possible that a creative culture can be made from the bottom up? If lower level management create this environment in their area and have successful results will their manager not take notice of their success? And by doing this possible take the successful/creative ideas to the other managers under their watch for them to practice. By doing this their superior my take notice and convey the new creative thinking up the ladder. It has to start somewhere and the top is a good place to start, but I believe it to be possible to start from the bottom too! It also a good way to get noticed by upper management for promotions if you make successful things happen on your level.

  10. The beauty about management is that they get to deal with different people that bring diverse attributes to the table. Hopefully, the right team is assembled with people that possess their own strengths which makes planning more cohesive. Seasoned professionals employed by the same company for years have a knowledge base that is far superior of any young resourceful recent graduate coming out of college. However, the distinct disadvantage they posses is the lack of the ability to be susceptible to change. Let’s face it, if you can avoid change, you do. It’s much easier to repeat the same repetitious schedule because you are eliminating the possibility of something going wrong. Change is key to advancement in today’s world and both people and companies that refuse to embrace it are doomed for failure. It’s just like driving home from work. There may be multiple possible routes that will get you to the same destination. However, most people get used to one way of doing things and repeat those same steps daily. Most people function better in their “comfort zone.” Even corporations get into these repetitive cycles that don’t allow much room for innovation. Creativity is often frowned upon in the workplace merely because the company is operating in its’ comfort zone. It’s important to embrace change and the people that are encouraging it. Explore those alternate routes periodically to make sure the company is maximizing its growth potential.

  11. Organizations can combat disruptive change by adopting an Organic management style to produce new ideas, encourage creative thoughts, out of the box solutions to ordinary problems. The openness of an organization can be an environment where every employee feels empowered, encouraged to contribute, and an atmosphere where they are able to portray their individual Knowledge and Skills.

    Employees who are restricted by bureaucratic tape could form small “think tank” groups to continue the generation of new ideas and unique solution encountered in their work environment. In an Organization like this, it might be hard to implement any of the ideas or even have the ideas heard but the groups or teams will allow for free thought and innovation.

      • An organic management style or organic structure is one that will allow the organization to respond efficiently and effectively to the unexpected. The authority is decentralized to middle and first-line managers to encourage them to take responsibility and act quickly to pursue scarce resources. In an organic structure the authority rests with the individuals, departments, and teams best positioned to control the current problems the organization faces.

        Contemporary Management / Jones, Gareth and George, Jennifer. – 6th ed p. 63

  12. I agree that is complicated to accounting professional make their tasks more creative or fun. For these situations the professionals can make the environment more agreeable and fun. As Google and Microsoft do on an environment full of IT programmers (considered nerds for a lot of people). Maybe make the work nicer is complicated; however the work environment can be a cool place to be. That’s a major issue in big companies, where the employees keep working in cubicles and keep back some contact with the rest of the company. I heard a lot of complaints of work colleagues that have difficulties to make friends on a work environment. Companies should develop a nice work environment because almost 30% of the employee life time happens there.
    Governments and organizations can improve work environment and friendship between employees with a cafeteria space or collective transportation. Meetings, meal and events are also activities that unify people. I worked on a company that we need to make a appraisal about the posture and desk organization of a colleague from another department. Once each three months, I need to get a survey and go to another department to check if the employee was working with a straight spine posture to avoid back and neck sprains. Also in this survey, I needed to say if my colleague works with an organized structure in its desk. The workers complain about these policies; however the program works and help employees to have a healthier routine and to chat a little bit with a colleague.

  13. The Asian Development Bank in the Philippines produced an article called Harnessing Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace. Many organizations today could use these steps to encourage employees to be creative and innovative. The article said “Creativity plays a critical role in the innovation process, and innovation that markets value is a creator and sustainer of performance and change. In organizations, stimulants and obstacles to creativity drive or impede enterprise.”
    The article also discusses the three components of creativity-Expertise, Motivation and Creative-Thinking Skills. These components are essential to make a successful team/organization. Below are some of the steps organizations can access to see if creativity is currently present:
    • Are group guidelines already in place? Are they articulated and disseminated?
    • Do you, as the manager, encourage risk taking?
    • Are people allowed to take intelligent risks, and fail, without being penalized?
    • When someone fails, do you help him/her and the group find the learning in the failure?
    • Do you distinguish between intelligent failures (something risky, but promising) and mistakes (something clearly avoidable)?
    • Do your current rewards motivate group members to be creative?
    • Do you currently have rewards for creative ideas and suggestions?
    • Do you have both extrinsic (for example, money) and intrinsic (for example, providing a sense of accomplishment) rewards in your current reward system?
    • Do you recognize group members who successfully work outside their preferred thinking style or area of expertise?
    • Do you support intellectual conflict within your group?
    • Do you encourage people to point out unacknowledged and taboo subjects that are holding the group back?
    • Do you reward collaboration?
    • Do individuals have freedom to choose their projects or to determine how they reach their agreed-upon goals?
    • Are you, as a manager, alert to individuals who may be burning out?
    • Do you celebrate small successes?
    • Do you encourage the group to stop and review how much progress it has made?

    http://www.adb.org/documents/information/knowledge-solutions/harnessing-creativity-and-innovation-in-the-workplace.pdf

  14. Creativity is the ability to produce ideas that are novel and valuable. I believe that creativity is the key of success to any organization that wants to compete and grow in business world. They are too many factors that help organization to be creative. I think Ryan made strong point in his comment by mentioning diversity. People from different countries have different mindsets and different solutions for one problem. It enables your organization to have more than one suggestion to solve a problem. Successful organization must foster innovation, maintain flexibility, and improve their product or service quality. Creative people are driven by exciting work more than by a paycheck, and they need to express themselves through their work.
    Contemporary organization can infuse creativity by motivating and encouraging employees to show their creativity and innovation. Everyone is creative to certain extent. It is at least important to motivate people who don’t see themselves creative to become creative. They are two environmental obstacles to creativity (organizational roadblocks and excessive workload pressure).

    Reference:

    http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/volunteerism/42389

  15. I believe the easiest way for companies to infuse creativity by encouraging intrapreneurship within the company. One of the company that make a good use of this aspect is 3M as they gives their employees 15% of their working time to use it on any project of their own. This has led great innovations in the company and one of the examples that we all see every day is the “post it” stickers. Another good way to encourage creativity like 3M does is rewarding each employee according to their innovations, employees in different departments should also be allowed to share ideas as this will motivate them and create healthy competition within.

  16. Contemporary organizations can take steps to infuse creativity in their organizations by encouraging the expression of ideas, rather than encouraging a culture of group speak. When employees feel as if they are free to express their ideas, opinions, values, and add input to the organization, then they will feel empowered to use their resources to come up with new solutions to be used for the benefit of the company. When this freedom of expression is not present, the creative employee may become stagnant, or even resentful of the company or his manager for not allowing him the freedom that he needs. Companies should also invite an element of risk taking in their environments, to facilitate experimentation.

    As a creative working in bureaucratic organization, it helps me to find champions of creativity within the organization that can advocate the sharing of new ideas. Also, I stay abreadst of what is going on in creative fields and in other organizations through the publications that I read. It also helps to be able to decorate my personal workspace and share ideas with others. It is good to have others within the company to with whom I can bounce ideas back and forth. Lastly, I think it is imperative for creatives to take breaks from their organizations and recharge by attending conferences or other outings.

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