What can we learn from the most innovative cultures in history?


How can you maximise creative potential in your organisation? This article explores how to identify, train and retain the best creative talent for more innovative results.

Some cultures simply do it better.

Researchers have looked at those periods of history which have fostered greater creativity (such as ancient Athens and the Renassiance) and tried to identify what factors made them so. In these ‘creativogenic’ cultures, it has been found that certain social, economic and political cycles all align to create the most conducive environment for creative growth.

So how is it possible to apply these principles today to best support creative growth at each phase of the innovation process?

1. Guided freedom

Innovation starts with ideation. And the best ideas will only come where there is a foundation of freedom.

Psychologists believe personal freedom through autonomy to be one of the key developmental stages that helps us grow from dependent children to responsible, creative and fulfilled adults.

Democracies typically encourage more free thinking and provide the opportunities for experimentation that enable creativity. Similarly, in organisations, it is important to ensure people feel free to challenge existing ways of thinking and doing things. This allows for the most novel ideas.

Yet the little recognised secret to success is that this freedom needs to be supported and appropriately guided towards productive innovation.

Quick check:

  • Are there the opportunities for people to be empowered to take actions quickly without fear of reprisal?
  • Do procedures provide guidance based on purposeful principles rather than being restrictive?
  • Are there opportunities for people to be involved in decision-making at all levels?

2. Targeted openness

After the initial innovation process starts with the foundation of freedom, there is also a need for deliberate opportunities to connect with and learn from others in order to stimulate diverse ideas.

Ideally, brainstorming will start with individual ideas that are built on and developed through a shared process. It is possible to draw on a range of ideas and perspectives by ensuring a diverse group of individuals is involved in the brainstorming process, and facilitating openness and connections to other ideas and organisations.

The secret to success with openness is to ensure it is also targeted as you start to zoom in on potential great ideas and solutions.

Quick check:

  • Is there is an acceptance and respect of diversity in the organisation?
  • Are there opportunities for people to connect with each other in meaningful ways?
  • Is access to learning from multiple sources encouraged?

3. Group engagement

The “solution development” phase of the innovation process involves the diverse ideas of individuals crystallising into unified team solutions. It requires a transition from valuing individual attention and focus to recognising the the benefits of a collective approach.

This process can be long and intense;  it can involve combining, pulling apart and then recombining different concepts until unique and practical solutions emerge. It can involve testing and prototyping to come up with structured solutions.

The secret to success with engagement is being able to assimilate the passion of individuals with the synthesis of a group approach (moving from knowledge generation to knowledge integration).

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What can we learn from the most innovative cultures in the world? « T-Thoughts Team Building & Leadership Development Articles

[…] from The Innovation Race book, originally published in a similar format as an article online by Human Resources Media with the title ‘What can we learn from the most innovative cultures in […]

More on HRM

What can we learn from the most innovative cultures in history?


How can you maximise creative potential in your organisation? This article explores how to identify, train and retain the best creative talent for more innovative results.

Some cultures simply do it better.

Researchers have looked at those periods of history which have fostered greater creativity (such as ancient Athens and the Renassiance) and tried to identify what factors made them so. In these ‘creativogenic’ cultures, it has been found that certain social, economic and political cycles all align to create the most conducive environment for creative growth.

So how is it possible to apply these principles today to best support creative growth at each phase of the innovation process?

1. Guided freedom

Innovation starts with ideation. And the best ideas will only come where there is a foundation of freedom.

Psychologists believe personal freedom through autonomy to be one of the key developmental stages that helps us grow from dependent children to responsible, creative and fulfilled adults.

Democracies typically encourage more free thinking and provide the opportunities for experimentation that enable creativity. Similarly, in organisations, it is important to ensure people feel free to challenge existing ways of thinking and doing things. This allows for the most novel ideas.

Yet the little recognised secret to success is that this freedom needs to be supported and appropriately guided towards productive innovation.

Quick check:

  • Are there the opportunities for people to be empowered to take actions quickly without fear of reprisal?
  • Do procedures provide guidance based on purposeful principles rather than being restrictive?
  • Are there opportunities for people to be involved in decision-making at all levels?

2. Targeted openness

After the initial innovation process starts with the foundation of freedom, there is also a need for deliberate opportunities to connect with and learn from others in order to stimulate diverse ideas.

Ideally, brainstorming will start with individual ideas that are built on and developed through a shared process. It is possible to draw on a range of ideas and perspectives by ensuring a diverse group of individuals is involved in the brainstorming process, and facilitating openness and connections to other ideas and organisations.

The secret to success with openness is to ensure it is also targeted as you start to zoom in on potential great ideas and solutions.

Quick check:

  • Is there is an acceptance and respect of diversity in the organisation?
  • Are there opportunities for people to connect with each other in meaningful ways?
  • Is access to learning from multiple sources encouraged?

3. Group engagement

The “solution development” phase of the innovation process involves the diverse ideas of individuals crystallising into unified team solutions. It requires a transition from valuing individual attention and focus to recognising the the benefits of a collective approach.

This process can be long and intense;  it can involve combining, pulling apart and then recombining different concepts until unique and practical solutions emerge. It can involve testing and prototyping to come up with structured solutions.

The secret to success with engagement is being able to assimilate the passion of individuals with the synthesis of a group approach (moving from knowledge generation to knowledge integration).

1
Leave a reply

avatar
100000
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
trackback
What can we learn from the most innovative cultures in the world? « T-Thoughts Team Building & Leadership Development Articles

[…] from The Innovation Race book, originally published in a similar format as an article online by Human Resources Media with the title ‘What can we learn from the most innovative cultures in […]

More on HRM