What does Creativity and Innovation have to do with age: A look at Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies

Over the last few months I had a chance to get together with folks I do not see very often. One of the folks I visited with was my manager from when I was in my early 20’s. He’s always been one of my favorites – a mentor, a great listener, and someone who has a way of calling a spade a spade. In our conversation, we chatted about how a person’s age effects his/her openness to new ideas. We shared war stories of the many “older folks” we’ve come across in organizations who would rather maintain the current course of business than risk doing something new and novel.

Unfortunately, these older folks tend to be in leadership positions which means they’re also the ones charting the future course of the organization.  We also speculated these managers had an eye on retirement (and not rocking the boat) rather than a calling for innovation (hmm, this may be why there are so many companies clamoring for innovation, but very few actually achieving it).

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How “Good Stress” Breeds Creativity and Innovation

Jack Skille scores the game-winning goal again...

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There are some who believe stress is a bad thing when it comes to creativity and innovation. However, those of us in the trenches know a little “good stress” can actually help boost creativity and innovation. So, what is the difference between good stress and bad stress? When asked if people want the good news first or the bad news first, most choose the bad news, so here goes. Bad stress includes time pressure and organizational impediments, like political problems, harsh criticism of new ideas, and emphasis on the status quo. I’m sure many of you have “been there, done that.” Researcher Theresa Amabile, has spent much of her career studying time pressure and organizational impediments. If you’re interested, check out Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side. Now for the good news, stress can also be positively linked to creativity and innovation.

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The Global Innovation Index 2011 is Out

Coat of Arms of Switzerland.

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Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore lead The Global Innovation Index 2011 as #’s 1, 2, and 3 respectively. Interested in seeing how the 125 countries stack up? Read more. Beware, the report is a beefy 381 pages.

While I haven’t read the entire report cover to cover, I have made it as far as the framework. Here is a synopsis of the measures The Global Innovation Index used to rate each of the countries. Each of the pillars below capture elements of the country’s economy that enable innovation.

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Curiosity and Creativity go Hand in Hand

Pencil

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When my youngest son turned 5 in April, he received a gigantic 17″ pencil as a gift from one of his friends. The pencil was so big that my son had to grip it like a badminton racket. He walked around the house for days happily carrying his pencil around. After making sure my son knew enough not to draw on anything except paper, I rest assured I wouldn’t need to scrub pencil markings off the walls.

However, my son’s curiosity got the better of him and it had nothing to do with drawing on walls. Instead, he decided to test his pencil on the window screens. While curiosity is a key ingredient in creativity, this once, I wished my son could have been a tad less curious. My son was became fascinated with the pencil and wondered what would happen if he poked holes in the window screens with it.

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Workplace Friendships Improve Innovation Success

people are the funniest people

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Have you ever taken a workplace survey that asked about your friendships at work? If you took a Gallup survey, the question asked you to rate the statement “I have a best friend at work.” In looking at the dimensions that promote employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability, Gallup found the friendship question consistently correlated with all four dimensions. In fact, employees who had best friends at work were:

Hospitals Turn to Creativity and Innovation to Deliver Better Care

A doctor from the United States uses a stethos...

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Though it may be counter to how many people view productivity, in order to improve patient safety while being squeezed by health care reform, Bassett Healthcare Network is giving leaders and staff paid sabbatical days. Wouldn’t it be great if all workplaces gave employees paid sabbatical days? You’re probably thinking you’d love the time off. But, what does paid time off have to do with delivering better health care? Well, Bassett Healthcare Network recognizes that doing more with less requires creativity and innovation. Sabbatical days allows leaders and staff the time to think up and pursue new ideas.  This time away from the daily grind and pressures of meeting financial performance goals and providing better services paves the way to think differently about the challenges that plague the health care industry.

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Why Creativity and Innovation are Scary

When cats are scared they arch there back and ...

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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.

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The Marshmallow Test as a Predictor of Future Financial Woes

Marshmallows

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In the 1970’s Dr. Walter Mischel of Stanford University conducted the famous marshmallow tests where he put 600 of 4-year olds into a room by themselves and told them they could have one marshmallow or cookie right away, or wait until he came back and have two marshmallows or cookies. This test of willpower, self-control and immediate gratification ended in 30% of the preschoolers eating the treats and some waiting as long as 20 minutes to double the number of treats. The interesting learning from this study is how 4-year olds performed on this test predicted patterns later in life. In short, children Read more of this post

Failure Leads to Innovation

There’s been quite a bit of talk lately in the innovation world about the importance of failure. In thinking about failure, I’m struck by the negative connotation. Though many of us consider failure a bad thing, sometimes there is an unintended consequence to failure. Namely, failure can lead to new thinking and innovation. I was reminded of the beauty of failure by my son.

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Fostering Creativity in the Workplace

a peek at the inside of tulips

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Fostering a creative environment in the workplace is like nurturing a garden.

Though I’ve had tulips in my garden for the past 6 years, this Spring marks only the second year my tulips have bloomed. Each year as the green leaves of my tulips appear, I eagerly anticipate the colorful blossoms. Unfortunately for the first 4 years, all I saw was a garden of green stems sitting atop the leaves. In talking to one of my neighbors, she asked if I let the tulips die back. Being a novice gardener I replied, “Once I see the greens starting to wilt, I cut down the plant.” As it turns out, tulip bulbs reabsorb the energy from the dying plant. Rather than cutting down the plants, I learned I should let them die back naturally. Just like gardening, creativity in the workplace needs care and feeding.

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