49: Creativity and Innovation – Finding those Amazing, Breakthrough Ideas

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CEOs are perplexed by the lack of innovation and creativity in their organizations. According to the 2017 PwC CEO Survey, the issue of innovation is the number one priority on the minds of many CEOs across the world today. In fact, 77% of CEOs struggle to find the creativity and innovation skills that they believe they need in order to grow and transform their businesses. In this episode, Dr. Amy Climer identifies the potential pitfalls and roadblocks to innovation and offers ideas and steps that leaders can take to build a culture of creativity in their teams and organizations. 
Dr. Amy Climer is a teacher in the area of creativity and innovation as well as a trainer and coach supporting the development of teams. She holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University and is certified in Creative Problem Solving, Immunity to Change, and in the Foresight Thinking System.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Linda's interview with Amy.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What is creativity and why does it matter to businesses today? Creativity is novelty that is valuable, meaning it is something different and unique. But it must be valuable. It does not need to be financially valuable, but it needs to be valuable in some way (e.g., emotional, providing new insights). 
  • How did Amy become an expert in this area? Amy was always interested in creativity dating back to high school. She set her sights on outdoor education and student affairs in higher education.  As a result, she was exposed to working with teams and developing leaders, and she began infusing creativity into that work. In 2011, she obtained her Ph.D. with the intent to study creativity in teams in the context of leadership. 
  • What role do leaders play in developing, building, and nurturing creativity and innovation? How do leaders respond when ideas come up? When peers or people they are supervising bring up an idea, what is that leader’s response? Are they open to exploring the idea or do they reject it (e.g., that is not going to work, that will be too expensive)? The culture that the leaders play a role in creating has a big impact on whether or not creativity is alive and well. The type of processes leaders facilitate and bring into an organization also has an impact – most companies state in their ‘vision’ that they want to be creative and innovative. But when you ask them, ‘how do you do that?’ they don’t actually have a process in place. Amy teaches teams a process they can use to tap into that creativity at any time. Everyone has the incredible potential to be creative. 
  • Do you believe everyone has the capability to be creative but that the surrounding systems and environments don’t encourage and nurture it? What can HR practitioners do to foster more creativity? Everyone has the capacity to be creative. At some point in childhood, we determine that we are not creative if we are not able to draw. In adulthood, we continue to have these beliefs about ourselves. HR leaders can help people pull out that creativity. HR leaders can say ‘yes’ when ideas come up – not ‘yes, we’re going to implement that idea’, but ‘yes, I’m curious, and I’d love to talk more about that – let’s explore it more’. When people share ideas and they get a ‘yes’ response, they are more likely to share other ideas. Eventually, you might get to that amazing, breakthrough idea.
  • Are tenacity and resilience a part of it? Part of it is trying to figure out what you are trying to be creative in. If you are looking at a creative problem-solving process, the very first stage is clarifying the actual problem. That tends to be more effective versus saying ‘let’s just be creative’. Amy calls it the ‘blank canvas effect’ – I don’t know what to draw, I don’t know what to paint, I’m staring at this blank canvas - as opposed to saying to someone ‘I want a painting of an elephant’, and now they have 15 ideas of what that might look like. 
  • Creativity and structure. An element of structure can help people be creative. You want balance. Some structure can be helpful, but the point of creativity is that you want something new and original. One of the structures Amy puts in place when she is working with teams is to differentiate between convergent and divergent thinking. Divergent thinking is generally what you want to do first – going big and broad and coming up with many ideas and not judging them. Then, you ‘switch your brain’ to convergent thinking and start evaluating and sifting through the ideas to see which ones are the best ones. People try to do both processes at the same time which is less effective. 
  • HR Studio Guest Quote - Dr. Amy ClimerHow do you go through the process of selecting ideas? Depending on the context, Amy will have groups develop criteria – e.g., what are the three pieces of criteria to be used to evaluate the ideas?  Sometimes you do not need to get that detailed – you can give everyone the ability to individually rank the ideas – ideas that are going to best solve the problem. Then you can look at the ideas that have risen to the top. 
  • Does Brainstorming Work? In the 1940s is when brainstorming first came about (invented by Alex Osborn). Since then, in the 50s, 70s, and 90s there have been studies around brainstorming to determine if it really works. A lot of the studies have determined that brainstorming is not that effective. But if you dig into the details of the study, you will notice that brainstorming is effective if there is a facilitator and a process in place. Having a facilitator helps people come up with more and better ideas than they would have either by themselves or in a group without a facilitator. 
  • Leaders need to set aside ego in this process. It is important to identify the purpose of coming up with creative ideas, and usually, the purpose has something to do with the organization. It is important to continually remind everyone of the purpose. It is also important for people to suggest ideas for the benefit of the team. When people try to give credit to someone for suggesting an idea, it creates the sense of ‘ownership’, and team members find it difficult to make adjustments to the idea. Leaders who are successful are very focused on helping their team succeed. A leader’s ego can cause the process to backfire.

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

  • Climer Cards can be used by facilitators to help with team building activities, enhancing conversations, generating creative ideas. Learn more and download Amy’s free e-book. 
  • The Deliberate Creative Podcast and Blog. Climer Consulting’s podcast is designed to teach others how to lead innovation in teams.

To Follow Dr. Amy Climer

Dr. Amy Climer HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Dr. Amy Climer HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 8:00am
Linda Hlavac
Dr. Amy Climer
HR Studio Podcast