Lessons on creativity and change in Zurich
I’m writing this after an incredible month in Zurich, where I spent time with different clients exploring the roles leaders and managers play in coping with change and managing the company of the future. Totally one of those months that’s left me feeling overwhelmed doing the work where I can do my best and at the same time doing the job I love.
Because I’m feeling so energized after the last weeks, I thought it’d be neat to summarize what we talked about. So, here are the things I believe we must do as leaders in order to manage constant change and different sets of consequences:
#1 Leverage a change
Innovation is all about change. If you are going to invest in the work to improve your innovation culture, you are investing in change. Prepare your people for a culture change, and keep in mind some of the best practices in managing change.
#2 Foster creativity in each and every part of the organization
Creativity means different things to different people. But, deep down we know that people have different passions, skills, and potential and that everyone is creative, in their own way. Every company should consciously define what creativity means to them and what it does not, and this is how could be fostered in each and every part of your organization. Establishing a fertile ground for creativity in your organization is the first and most important building block in a sustainable innovation foundation.
#3 Move from hierarchy to the collective wisdom
Most companies lose their talents fast, instead of unlocking their potential. The fact is that most employees have more than one skillset, so it’s important to give people space to innovate. Find a way to strike a balance between what employees need to do for the organization and what they want to do for the organization. Find out what your employees are interested in and design programs that tap into other skills that don’t fit into their job descriptions.
#4 Find out the curious one
In every successful company, there is a healthy tension between the entrepreneurial mindset and the executive mindset. While the entrepreneurs in your organization might seek change, not everyone loves change or is energized by it. Find the most curious and entrepreneurial people in your organization, and engage those individuals to help drive a movement to replace fear with curiosity. The more curious an organization you can build, the more innovative it will become. One way to build organizational curiosity is by sharing stories and inspiration.
#5 Value obliquity
Obliquity is not an easy concept to come to grips with. Oblique approaches are most effective in difficult terrain, or where outcomes depend on interactions with other people. But the more unpredictable the environment, and the more complex the company, the more important the oblique principle becomes. Everyone has a dominant innovation role at which they excel, and when properly identified and channeled, the organization stands to maximize every individual’s innovation capacity. And when the company put the right people in the right roles, innovation speed and capacity will increase.
#6 Learn something new every day
A little learning is a dangerous thing. The broader point is that the democratization of information creates an imbalance between the “top” and “bottom” of society, and most companies are not good at coping with this shift. Importantly, learning should never stop. Regardless of your past achievements and your present level of expertise, your future depends on your ability to keep learning.
#7 Make the innovation stick
Ultimately, though, motivation is a highly idiosyncratic thing. Employees are individuals and respond in their own unique ways to the work they do. The leader’s job is to be thoughtful about how to get the most out of people: to enable and encourage their discretionary effort. For creativity and agility to thrive, companies should revisit these new ways of thinking year after year and, although projects may be reiterated, the innovative spirit should remain undiluted.
Change is inevitable. Leading change effectively is not.