The need to stimulate creativity and innovation within the 21st century workforce has never been greater. It will be big ideas that ensure a business stays ahead of the pack. But where do ideas come from and how does HR identify the ‘ideas people’ within their workforce?
It might not always be the loudest voices that have the most innovative ideas; quiet, under-the-radar Bruce or Bernadette may be the left-field thinkers who can help to transform the business.
The casualties of products and companies that failed to adapt and change are seen all around us. The cassette tape versus Spotify; The ‘video’ store versus Netflix; cash/credit cards versus Apple/electronic payments and electricity versus Tesla. Innovate and change or the result will significantly impact on profitability or can result in an organisation or products demise.
Academics Professor Michael Anderson from the University of Sydney and teaching educator Dr Miranda Jefferson have been studying how, with the support of employee education and learning, businesses can foster the four Cs: creativity, collaboration, communication and critical reflection. In collaboration with e-learning and training organisation ArcLife, their research will be commercialised and turned into an education program for business.
People are still largely the highest value resource an organisation has and regardless of ‘automation’ through systems or processes, people’s creative ideas are how organisations irrespective of sector stay competitive and relevant. Engagement is therefore essential if ideas are to flourish as motivation needs to come from within – and the time and space to innovate needs to come from without – an environment provided by the organisation.
The ‘creative cascade’ is a term that Anderson and Jefferson have coined to describe how organisations can encourage innovation and change either to adapt to market pressures and or open up the possibilities of new product and services. It requires teams and individuals to take a step back and follow a structured creative approach to problem solving starting with:
Sometimes individuals or organisations can’t ‘see the forest for the trees’ so giving employees space to step back and objectively assess by really ‘noticing’ the environment, the market or the landscape that is changing is a simple but often very effective way to get creativity and ideas for innovation flowing. Take the example of CBA boss Ian Narev, who took a number of hours out to attend Marina Abramovic 2015 Biennale exhibition. He then encouraged his executive team to do the same during business hours. Just taking the time to notice can create perspectives that could make solving complex business issues easier.
2. Asking why? Really why?
Take the time to go deeper into the issues, remove the assumptions or ‘status quo’ of simply accepting everything at face value. While things may be how they are due to needs beyond individual or company control (eg. regulation, externally set standards etc), many simple things can be improved to produce the space to be creative simply by getting to the root cause of ‘WHY’ and then moving to the next step of ‘playing with possibilities’ if the answer doesn’t suffice.
3. Playing with possibilities
While the success of group ‘brainstorming’ is heavily reliant on the dynamic and diversity of the minds in the room, fostering a true ‘blue sky’ idea session where you remove all constraints and talk about what the outcomes could be (even if it’s beyond the capability of modern technology, for example), can lead to startling rationale and solutions flowering.
4. Selection and evaluation
After all the above has occurred, you can then review and objectively select and evaluate potential solutions to the problem at hand. Or, like Elon Musk (the man behind, Tesla, SpaceX, solar city and more), you could even outsource this phase or bring in another internal team or individual to complete this phase for more objectivity.