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The essential guide for creativity and enterprise innovation rafael wong chi hao
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The essential guide for creativity and enterprise innovation rafael wong chi hao
1. The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Insight from Artists and Scientists: Looking through the convergence of Music and Neuroscience The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Rafael WONG Chi Hao Submission for the 2013 Peter Drucker Challenge (Student category) July 8th , 2013
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Introduction The creativity and innovation crisis in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambitious world Peter Thiel, an early investor in Facebook, said in 2011 that, except big advances in computer-related areas, innovation had actually “stalled out.” In 2010, a landmark poll by IBM showed that 1,500 CEOs worldwide identified “creativity”, no longer “operational excellence”, as the No.1 “leadership competency” of the future. The proliferation of cool gadgets like tablets and smart phones might have tricked us into believing that we’re living in an era of creativity boom – but we’re NOT. In the United States of America, researchers show that creativity scores of pre-school children had consistently inched downward across-the-board since 1990. From all of the above studies, you need not be hard-pressed to see a natural linkage of individuals’ capability of creative thinking to an organization’s innovation muscle – and therefore commercial success. The necessity of human ingenuity is undisputed, especially in our VUCA world - volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambitious world, coined by the United States Military to describe the current socio-political landscape in the aftermath of 9 / 11. Creativity is about so much more than a “nice-to-have” competency and innovation is about so much more than cool and cult consumer gadgets.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Framework of paper Upfront, it is of utmost importance to clarify that creativity and innovation CANNOT be used interchangeably. The confusion about the difference between creativity and innovation make meaningful discussion difficult. Creativity refers to as the capability of conceiving something original; (e.g. brainstorming lots of new ideas); Innovation is the implementation of new ideas. This paper draws insights from musicians, dancers, novelists, neuroscientists and psychologists to form an Essential Guide for individuals and corporations on improving creativity and innovation. Key principles, blending time-tested wisdom and case studies, forms the management lessons for managers. Simple enough to be practical is the mantra of this paper. 2 public health scientists at West Virginia University discovered that whole milk is the largest source of saturated fat in typical American’s diet. It turns out that changing purchasing behavior is the key to get Americans start drinking low-fat milk, instead of drinking behavior, as people will drink whatever in their refrigerators. “Eating a healthier diet” was anything but a clear instruction. This begged a string of questions such as ‘which food should people stop (or start) eating?’; ‘should they change eating behavior at breakfast, lunch, or dinner?’ etc. Instead of campaigning to ask Americans to “eat healthier”, the researchers had pinpoint intervention measures targeted at altering people’s purchase behavior — buy 1%-fat skim milk.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved The same holds – the vague instructions to employees asking of them to ‘think out of the box’ desert analysis paralysis and never make innovation happen. As far as individuals' concern, can the ability to go creative be learned? If so, what comprises of the essential HOW-TOs guide for companies and individuals to adopt right away? How is creativity linked with innovation in the corporate environment? To start with, we need to know what went wrong—and how we can fix it.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Creativity The inhibitors that stifle creativity within individuals and organizations To understand what creativity really is, we have to take a step back and decipher the myths of creativity. And there are 4 major misconceptions: Myth #1 Creativity as part of the personality, a special gift exclusively for genius Legends about the mad scientists and artists with the special personality shape our perception of creativity. The prevailing view on creativity is mental and individualistic. We tend to believe that creativity comes through the individual and is expressed solely by the individual. WRONG!
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Correction: Although extensive researches ranging from cognitive psychology to neuroscience have tried to right us that we all possess the ability to be creative, these findings don’t resonate with our existing perceptions, as we always undervalue our creative ability by comparing with exceptional individuals like Albert Einstein. We always forget the fact that Albert Einstein developed his ground-breaking works after he had spent years evaluating applications for electromagnetic devices as an examiner in a patent office. Einstein didn’t come up with the Theory of Relativity out of the blue when he had a shower after dozens of espressos and pulling an all-nighter. The fact is, people from different fields and careers have their own measures of novelty. Each field – whether music, science, sports, psychology – has its different schools of experts who have specific understandings of what is traditional against creative. So while there may be general patterns of creative behavior that everyone shares, creativity in the field requires a certain level of domain knowledge. Myth #2 Creative people are visionaries who are ahead of their time, “right-brainers” who think differently from everyone else Again, the romanticized story of the lone poet starving in a garret far from civilization confirms existing belief. Correction: In 1967, psychologist J.P. Guilford identified 2 different types of thinking that occur when human respond to complex problems. Our brain starts from thinking divergently for generating ideas and possibilities, while convergent thinking analyzes these ideas into concrete actionable steps. Neuroscience shows that left brain is mainly responsible for complex analytic processes (a. k. a. convergent thinking) while the right brain draws connections between different bodies of knowledge (a. k. a. divergent thinking).
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved The implications here are that: 1.) Both left brain and right brain, therefore creativity AND empirical analysis, are essential in solving complex problems and; 2.) Creative ideas must origin from proper understanding of the context. In other words, creativity is situational that a certain depth of domain knowledge is a must. Myth #3 We fail to recognize that what we are doing is actually creative, just because we can't pinpoint the eureka moment when creativity "happened". Although we have our fleeting moments of creativity once in a while, we go back to life very soon after, we dismissed it as just a fluke. We don't know how to identify creativity. We don't even know how to define it properly. Therefore we jump to the conclusion that we simply weren’t born creative. We suffer from creativity anxiety. Correction: As Keith Richards pointed out, creativity is neither about the "aha" moment nor all-or- nothing in nature. Instead, it is progressive, collective realization. Myth #4 Creativity is always admired. Not really. American researchers showed that participants showed "a negative bias toward creativity (relative to practicality) when participants experienced uncertainty." Worse, "the bias against creativity interfered with participants' ability to recognize a creative idea."
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Rejecting creativity in favor of predictability and conventionality is our innate nature after million years of evolution following Charles Darwin's Survival of the Fittest rule of thumb that we instinctively seek out the predictables to increase odds of success and survival. We always praise creativity in a vacuum, by ignoring the twin brother that creativity comes hand in hand – uncertainty. Sarcastically, by excessive manipulation of uncertainty, we made ourselves not creative. Correction: It is not realistic to expect change of deeply entranced mindset about creativity to happen overnight. Therefore, we need to shape the external environment, such as implementing a reliable decision-making system for judging and approving innovative ideas, to override faulty human bias against creativity in corporate environment and educational institutions alike.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Key principles and time-tested wisdom for unleashing creative potential within individuals and corporations Ingraining power activities to become habits that promoted creativity is essential for individuals and organizations to free up their creative potential, very much the same as going to gym for body building. These habits not only beef up individuals’ and organizations’ creativity muscle, but they help further appreciate and re-learn the nature of creativity, track down the origins of creativity, and learn the language to properly and meaningfully express creativity to outsiders who have little ideas how to make sense of our brainchild. Key principle (1) — Less is more Solution for individuals — be self-reflective and mindful by disconnecting Bill Moggridge, former director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, kept an empty schedule for mindful walking around the city. It is also well known that Steve Jobs was a walker, so are Warren Buffet and Bill Gates. For good reason. We are always connected. Our consciousness is spent reacting to others’ requests or absorbing, taking in new information. But we often lack the time to integrate knowledge. Taking a walk alone is a simple way for getting away from constant distraction so as to bring together different areas of knowledge. An empty schedule brings mindfulness of life and creativity to solve challenges.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Solution for corporations — the 15 % solution Scientists and engineers at 3M Corp are allowed to spend up to 15 % of work hours on their own projects that have nothing to do with their job roles. This has everything to do with 3M’s commercial success. Scientist Art Fry knows best what the informal, bottom-up scientific research culture of 3M allows – he created Post-its while trying to create bookmarks that would stay put in the church choir's hymnals. The secret sauce for 15% solution to work is keeping it informal to maverick-oriented. Making it formal, like Hewlett Packard's creative non-projects, is a recipe for failure. Key principle (2) — Mining the existential Solution for individuals — delving into the past, the historical context and relationship of key ideas Digging deep to understand the past to gain a deep understanding of where things come from and why they exist is hugely important to creativity muscle building. Bob Dylan was once considered Woody Guthrie wannabe Having discovered Woody Guthrie's folk songs while he was a teenager, Bob Dylan — one of the most influential singer and songwriters ever — imitated Woody's style in learning music when he started his career and even headed to New York to find Woody Guthrie. His move to New York challenged him to be a better performer. Soon, he had even stopped playing other people's songs altogether, and was writing his own tunes.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved van Gogh found inspiration in Jean-Francois Millet At age 22, after van Gogh saw Jean-Francois Millet’s drawings, he would later painted his most famous Starry Night with profound inspiration from Millet’s 4 woodcut prints “Four Times of The Day”. van Gogh wrote: “it seems to me that doing painting after these Millet drawings is much rather to translate them into another language than to copy them.” The importance of rice in Japanese culture In his book “Inei Raisan” (translated into English as “In Praise of Shadows”), novelist Tanizaki Junichir extols a Japanese entrancing relationship to the aesthetics of cooking rice as developed among both the elite but shared also by the folk. Even today, rice, called “pure rice (junmai)” or “white rice (hakumai),” has an aesthetic quality, manifested in Japanese cuisine.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Solution for corporations — audit internal networks Auditing shouldn’t be viewed merely as a necessary evil for fulfilling regulatory bodies’ compliance standard. What if corporate leaders start global mandate of ‘stock-taking’ human capital within organizations by auditing both the ‘formal’ innovation centres (labs, new product groups, R&D) AND the ‘informal’ groups that work under the radar on weekends and at nights, example? Finding meanings with the roots of the knowledge domain, the industry, and staying engaged emotionally means understanding the intellectual context and history of key ideas in the lens of creativity. It allows understanding the deeper meaning of relationships, outside and inside the marketplace.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Innovation The inhibitors that stifle enterprise innovation As the economic pillars are primarily driven by the banking & capital markets of commodities trading and financial instruments in the stock market, therefore we first have to understand the external constraints where our organizations are operating in: 1. The finance-based, shareholders’ value-centred model of capitalism Starting from mid-80s, boards of directors of numerous companies directly tied the compensation of CEOs to the share price of the stock options of the companies they manage. With stock prices on financial markets being the only signal of success or failure CEOs focused less and less on stakeholders such as employees, business service vendors, local communities, and national governments because doing so compromised their ability to maximize profit for shareholders and themselves. Implications Managing for efficiency, a financial culture that reduced everything to metrics, markets and monetary transactions, squeezing more and more profits out of existing products, and focusing on the short-term financial benefits resulting from efficiencies of scale at the expense of long-term investment in internal innovations which take longer to mature, have since been the paramount guiding principle for corporate behaviors worldwide. The focus on measurable risks and predictability ushered in a control culture in all sorts of organizations worldwide.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved 2. Scientists giving way to management gurus As professional managers hold the helms for global expansion through creating complex organizational hierarchy, management culture overwhelms research culture. The counter-example of how Hewlett-Packard shrank their innovation muscle taught the best lesson of what NOT to follow. HP was once a R&D company, leading the world with their enviable HP Labs in scientific instruments, printers, PCs. But when the company embraced a financial culture in 1999, the momentum turned. With the backward move to shift HP’s culture away from organic growth through internal innovation and towards expansion by mergers and acquisitions — an example being buying PC maker Compaq, and merging it with HP’s PC business — managers were preoccupied with administrative work for integration, not innovation. The bureaucrat-minded management gurus with MBA replaced general managers with engineering expertise as the decision-makers. New ideas were thereafter judged through the lens of data-driven efficiency analytics. Profitability replaced possibility as a criterion of judgment. Cost-cutting measures such as outsourcing many of the manufacturing processes and cutting budget on R&D to pump up short-term profits further weakened the ability of engineers to innovate amid essential labor skills lost. All managers, including lab chiefs, were required to fire the “bottom” 5 % of their staff every year. As a result, the trust between lab engineers, scientists, and general managers had been broken. Engineers now had to compete with a one-year deadline in mind. Serendipitous invention and the creative exploitation of ideas is a muscle that companies can choose to workout or allow to wither, only when the leader understands the aspirations of the company’s customers and guides employees towards innovating new ways to meet them.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Managers are trained to be cost-cutting experts, but not innovation leaders. Every managers secretly believe that “innovation is someone else’s job and not part of my responsibilities.” With most of the resources devoted to day-to-day business that few remain for innovative prospects, managers are conditioned to immediately look for flaws in new ideas with an efficiency focus rather than assessing their potential. Enterprise innovation crisis is really a leadership crisis. So what is the ideal profile of a corporate innovator?
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Key principles and time-tested wisdom on The Art of Management: nurturing corporate innovators within corporations More transparent and flatter organizational structure means that leaders at the tip of the pyramid are holding less control and is becoming increasingly difficult to lead by commands than before. Arts can prove to be a powerful metaphor for business. What leadership and management lessons can we learn from the unlikely models of dancers and conductors? 1. Adaptability Rachel Moore, executive director of American Ballet Theatre — one of the most prominent ballet companies in the world — knows a thing or two about adaptability. When Rachel was appointed the position in 2004, she drew on her empathy for dancers to re-design programs to train dancers holistically, caring more about their health, and curating a well-rounded performance standard. This makes dancers “more mature artists, and more emotionally stable human beings.” Rachel likens adapting as innovators to moving as dancers, when practicing with the mentality of improvisation is a must. For example, dancers learn a new dance move and combination in a controlled setting and freedom within safety. The ability to adapt performance on-stage brings together the physical and emotional intellect that are essential as dancers and innovators.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved 2. Patience & Partnership Dance teaches Julia Erickson, a dancer-turned-entrepreneur, about the push and pull of partnership intellectually, viscerally, and kinetically. She and her life partner, Aaron, turns the idea of “healthy energy bar for dancers” into a series of franchise products. Dance partners learn how to work and move together, listen to each other, and to move past missteps. Dance teaches Julia trust, which she applies to start her own business as an innovator. They collaborate with subject domain experts outside of business and dance in teams and groups for product development, sometimes taking the lead and sometimes following. Regardless of who’s leading, Julia and Aaron are always trusting each other. 3. Always prototyping Choreographer Twyla Tharp created a whole new dance form called inverse variation when she asked her dancers to reverse their moves as if they were a mirror of themselves. By quickly testing new variations of working rather than striving for the excellence at first attempt, this “small” variation in practice embodies the progressive nature of discovery in mundane (even mechanic) work lives.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved 4. Striking the fine balance of control and autonomy Austrian conductor Carlos Kleiber led his orchestra as partners, where he gave clear-cut instructions at the right times (e.g. when there is a mistake, the authority is there) and enough room of autonomy for the musicians to interpret and perform the musical pieces in their own right. Unlike German composer and conductor Richard Strauss who exercised firm control on his orchestra to play his music with zero-tolerance against interpretation, Carlos Kleiber deliberately empowered his orchestra to “put in another layer of interpretation” when they play. He enabled followers tell their own stories, when both the leader and the followers took great pride and success from the serendipity. What Carlos Kleiber exemplifies is the management philosophy of doing without doing, which only happens after the business processes and the decision management structures that create the operating conditions which allow team members to perform autonomously are in place. It is not that because the leaders don't give followers instructions, and yet, they have to always second-guess the leaders’ mind. The fine balance strikes when the ultimate decision maker is still in control while letting people be / feel free. People management, after all, is an art of its own kind.
The Essential Guide for Creativity and Enterprise Innovation Copyright © Rafael WONG Chi Hao 2013, all rights reserved Conclusion: Rethinking Creativity The rising value of creativity has important implications for each one of us. We must first recognize creativity as a competency that can be taught and learnt systematically over time with adequate training and the importance of creativity-driven business. Unfortunately the current level of commercial discourse makes it very difficult to do so. Despite our vast creative potential, we have been brought up to believe that creativity is rare, the special gift of a few individual geniuses, the magical quality that we don’t have and can’t share. Through extensive researches in writing this position paper, I know how untrue creativity myths are. We can all be creative. We just need to get into systematic practice. And in practicing creativity on individual level and corporations-wide, we can build new kinds of businesses, reinvent our capitalist economy and take humankind to the next level.
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