Why Creativity and Innovation are Scary
June 16, 2011 1 Comment
I’ve been thinking about why it is so difficult to shift a corporate culture to become more creative and innovative. Though there is lots of talk about creativity and innovation in the workplace, when it actually comes to doing something breakthrough (other than talking) , there’s typically resistance.
As I looked back at the different advertising and marketing campaigns I’ve been a part of over the last half of my life, it was interesting to note how many of the best ideas ended up getting diluted into a shadow of themselves. What starts as a thought provoking, unique idea inevitably turns into the implementation of a “safe, been there, done that” campaign.
In thinking about the commonalities in these situations, there was a strong resistance to change within each of the client organizations. Sometimes companies say they’re aiming for the stars and want out-of-the-box thinking, when in reality, what they’re looking for is a slightly bigger box. This commentary is not a slight on the corporate world, just an observation that has made me curious.
Here are my musings on why creativity and innovation are scary.
- The younger you are, the more open you are to new experiences. Openness to change declines steadily as people near their 60’s. Within corporations, the organization is getting older every day. My hypothesis is as the management gets older, they don’t want to jeopardize retirement and therefore stick to what they know rather than go out on a limb striving for creativity and innovation.
- Speaking of management, many times (not all) the folks who are put into management are incentivized to keep risk at a minimum (i.e. manage the bottom line, minimize defects, ensure return on investment) This behavior is counter to changing the status quo.
- The types of personalities drawn to creativity and innovation are not always the types who are invited to the boardroom. While it takes visionary leadership to drive creativity and innovation, many folks who have the necessary traits don’t make it to the senior ranks. This may be one reason those who are drawn to imagination band together within advertising agencies, innovation consultancies and the like – there’s safety and camaraderie in numbers. Though, it is interesting to note, once these folks band they too are subjugated to the perils of the corporate structure.
What’s a company to do?
For creativity and innovation to succeed everyone within the company must see a burning need for it within the business. Creativity and innovation needs to be driven from the top, as well as, from the bottom. In effect, this is equivalent to changing the DNA of the organization from within. When the case for creativity and innovation is weak, you get a lot of talk, but no action. Lastly, corporations should consider inviting new, and different, people into the mix. Given the complexity of the problems we’re tackling within corporations, the rapid growth of open innovation is a welcome development.
These practices will help boost the creativity and innovation quotient. But, be aware. This will require change and change can be scary. Ensuring that everyone within the corporation is prepared and has the support they need is important.