Were you an excellent problem solver? Can you come up with ideas? Do you have colleagues and customers flocking to you for your artistic genius and the groundbreaking ideas you can create?
Even if you’re not a model or copywriter, imagination has become the number one business searching for soft skills – regardless of industry. I absolutely believe that creative thinking is the most crucial component to someone’s skill set.
However, the worst thing a business can do is place creativity in the hands of “creative types”—those compulsive creators of ideas whose frustration with the material realities of corporate existence renders them unwilling to carry out any real project.
By their very definition, institutions are intended to foster order and routine; they are inhospitable environments for creativity. Many who do not grasp the reality of organization are doomed to see their ideas go unrealised. Only the corporate expert — the obvious conformist — has the strategic experience to conquer red tape and put a promising idea to a successful end.
The problem with much of the advice industry today on the need to be more aggressively innovative is, in essence, that its proponents have usually failed to differentiate between the fairly simple process of being abstract innovative and the much more complicated process of being concrete innovationist.
Perhaps they themselves misdefined “creativity.” So often “creativity” means getting brilliant, original ideas for them. Almost all of their focus is on the thoughts themselves. In fact, the proposals are always measured more by their novelty than by their possible utility, either to customers or to the company.
But, as anyone who knows anything about any company knows only too well, it’s hard enough to get anything done at all, let alone adopt a new way of doing things, no matter how good it may sound. For years, a powerful new concept in a company can kick around unused, not because its merits are not understood, but because no one has taken responsibility for translating it from words to practice. What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e., putting ideas to work.
And, if you talk to different employees in companies, you can get the impression that in industry there is still very little lack of talent and talented people. The major issue is that so-called innovative people sometimes (although definitely not always) shift the blame for getting down to brass tacks onto others. They have lots of ideas but follow-through little businesslike. We do not make the right kind of effort to help get a hearing and a try for their ideas.
Ideas are all around us but it is the complexity of their application. Many people who are full of ideas just don’t understand how an organization needs to work to get things done, particularly drastically new stuff. Far too often, the strange underlying presumption remains that imagination leads inevitably to real innovation.
Idea and creativity are not synonyms of this. The former deals with developing ideas; the latter, with executing them. It is the lack of a persistent understanding of this distinction that is responsible for some of today’s corporate failures.
However, many people who are full of ideas just don’t understand how an organization needs to work to get things done. The fact that you can bring a dozen novice people in a room and hold a brainstorming session that produces exciting new ideas reveals just how little relative value ideas really have themselves. They can be generated by almost anyone with the intellect of the average businessman, given a reasonable atmosphere and stimulation halfway through. The scarce people are those with the know-how, the money, the imagination and the staying power to bring ideas into action.
Whatever a firm’s goals can be, it needs to make money. It needs to get things done to do so. Yet getting plans is never tantamount to doing something in the company or organizational context. Ideas are not being applied – not in industry, nor in art, science , philosophy, politics, love, war. Citizens are bringing things into action.
Today ‘s problem with much imagination is that many of the people with the ideas have the odd notion that their work will be done until the ideas are proposed. They assume it is everyone else’s job to hammer out the dirty details and then execute the proposals. Usually the more imaginative the man is, the less responsibility he feels to act. The explanation is that ideas and concepts are often created from his sole talent, his stock-in-trade. He never has the time or staying power, or even the desire, to deal with the grubby specifics that require attention before his ideas can be put into action.
This is something that everybody should test for themselves. For your own business, you just need to look around and pick the two or three most original men of ideas in the vicinity. How many of their innovations can you say they’ve ever followed through aggressively and consistently with comprehensive plans and strategies for their implementation — even with just a few small, ballpark suggestions of the risks, expenses, personnel needs, time budgets, and potential payouts?
Of course, it would be argued that saddling the imaginative person with the burden of writing out the implementing specifics will curb or even throttle his unique talent. This might well be real. Yet for him as well as for the business this may be salutary. Ideas are worthless, unless they are used. The execution is the evidence of their importance. Until then they are in limbo.
When the job demands of the executive means that an idea never gets a fair hearing unless it’s handled responsibly, then the unthrottled and reckless imaginative man is in vain for the company. If he gets throttled by an emphasis on any implementation obligation, he may generate less proposals, but their chances of a judicious hearing and thus being followed through are greatly enhanced. In pursuing the ideas, the business will benefit, and the imaginative guy will benefit from getting the satisfaction of realizing he’s being noticed.
Yet, equally important, it is necessary to understand that the higher the burden on the executive from day-to-day operational duties, the more resistance he is likely to have toward new ideas. When the operational burden falls on him, then his task is to make the existing system work smoothly and well. A new concept needs change, and change upsets the current operation’s smooth (or maybe faltering) regularity on whose success it is being judged and on which its future career depends. He has very good reason to be extremely careful about a new proposal. He needs lots of good risk-reducing reasons before he will look at one very carefully.
It is important to first seek to recognize the fundamental difference between creativity and innovation and then then spend a little more time calling for innovative individuals to take for additional responsibility for execution. The capacity of innovation differs considerably with the particular sector, the organizational environment, the organizational level of the concept man, and the kinds of day-in, day-out concerns, stresses, and obligations of the man to whom he is expressing his ideas. Many who declare that a organization will somehow expand and flourish merely by making more imaginative people make a fetish of their own fantasies, without clearly appreciating such facts.
Check out my related post: Do you dare to lead?