Charles Day outlines the five drivers of organizational creativity–gravity, tension, heat, speed, generosity–and how to develop and deploy them.
The best companies are attracting talent faster than they are losing it. Given that some of their competitors have a retention rate of less than 60%, this creates immediate competitive advantage. A recent article by the Management Innovation eXchange reports that today’s workforce has never been more mobile (35% prefer to be self-employed), fluid (those entering the workforce today are expected to have 10 career changes before the age of 40) or disinterested (87% of workers worldwide say they are disengaged at work).
In this environment, a company can not hope to tie its best thinkers in place for 20 years. It must attract and retain talent gravitationally.
Restoring gravity is the result of Asking Hard Questions, starting with:
- Why does this company exist?
- Why anyone should care?
Vince Barabba, describes three company types in his book The Decision Loom.
Many organizations wisely shy away from “paralysis by analysis.” But even more avoid healthy debate in exchange for easy answers. Unlocking original thought requires a willingness to let originality emerge from the shadows.
Tension is at the heart of every business that depends on creativity. And yet, many leaders spend time and energy searching for ways to reduce its presence. This is a self-destructive quest, because lowering tension requires you remove the stimulus that creates the best answers in eight crucial debates:
- the individual vs. the organization
- now vs. later
- freedom vs. structure
- fashion vs. sustainability
- culture vs. values
- evolution vs. revolution
- pushing vs. leading
- waiting vs. starting
In every case the first proposition is immediately tempting–which doesn’t automatically make it wrong. The best answer in each debate is driven by context, specifically the question: :where are we headed.
One of the characteristics that sets apart exceptionally creative companies is the ability to rapidly take an idea from inspiration to fully formed expression. They keep each part of the organization simmering, their people engaged and focused. The result is that it doesn’t take long to bring ideas to the boil.
Heat is also an essential but potentially dangerous change agent. Turn it up quickly and the consequences can be catastrophic. Apply it slowly and its impact is barely noticed until it has created the pliability you’re looking for. Exceptional leaders use it judiciously, knowing that a little goes a long way.
Speed and time are inextricably linked. Which make speed the lever of creativity’s most important metric–the opportunity cost of the time spent to solve a chosen problem.
Working faster means learning more. In a creativity-driven business, that is extraordinarily valuable compensation.
Exceptionally creative businesses use time more effectively. They move no slower than entrepreneurial speed, and in some cases at social speed. When your competitors can do no better than enterprise speed, the result is greater impact of your people and sustained advantage for your company.
As a practical definition, generosity means putting the needs of the organization first by making brave and sometimes personally uncomfortable decisions: a willingness to have honest conversations, including the most difficult ones: letting people go that are struggling before you know how to replace them (a service to both them and the organization); hiring people more talented than you; taking on the difficult client personally and refusing to take credit. Each of these makes life better for others and raises their ability to exceed their own expectations.
Without generosity, we are left with a zero-sum environment in which there must always be winners and losers. Susan Credle of Leo Burnett describes this as a “Culture of Scarcity.” In its place, Susan advocates a Culture of Abundance–a definition that looks first to create the best outcome possible for the other party instead of protecting our own status quo.