Written by: Mark Carter
I’m deliberately avoiding the platitude ‘disruptive innovation’ or, ironically even more prosaic, ‘digital disruption’. The term disruptive technologies was created and coined by Clayton M. Christensen in the mid 90’s. Since then, like many things trendy, the terms either lost its way or become a blasé victim of its popular resonance with the masses.
To highlight this, think about a couple of similes from the fairytale land of digital, especially social channels. If Instagram or Facebook suddenly ceased to exist I suspect the world would find itself a few hundred thousand, if not millions, of ‘public figures’ shorter overnight. The hashtag ‘#authenticity’ seems frequently slapped on team built, masterminded market messages intended to drive sales or on one of 100 snaps (often filtered) endeavoring to capture that ‘candid’ moment’. To some degree I find creativity and innovation have fallen victim to the same craze. They’ve lost their way.
Not every innovation or creative idea being birthed is disruptive. In fact one might argue that for every mythological Unicorn discovered there’s probably thousands and thousands of solid, powerful, stable working horses and possibly many more dead ones.
Maybe you will birth the next big thing. Maybe you will create a new world changing giant. Yet my advice here is that not everything creative or innovative has to be disruptive; in the true sense of what that really means. (Here’s one, from tons of great articles explaining, in the Harvard Business Review: What Is Disruptive Innovation?)
As a speaker (especially when presenting from the field of behavioral sciences and personal peak performance, of which creativity is a part), I’m all for ‘everything is possible.’ I’m also aware that it’s not everyone’s destiny to become the next Steve Jobs. And why would you want to? By being your creative best you will be the next, only, (insert your name here!). And then you may beautifully influence within your local, or national, market or community.
Besides, changing and influencing one person's life powerfully is equally valuable than creating some gold horned, tech unicorn that might impact the world.
The challenge with creativity and innovation, especially for SME, is balancing day-to-day delivery of your product or service, sustaining cash flow and profitability, keeping the doors open, whilst finding ways to refresh and stretch.
It takes time and resources, often in research and development, to drive creativity and innovation from one person's mind to end user masses. Magic, unless you're Harry Potter, doesn’t necessarily happen instantaneously. Simultaneously it’s possible to drive momentum quickly when everyone is on board and involved.
An example I love using in so many ways regarding creativity, for so many lessons in sessions, is Pixar.
By no means an overnight success, it was a 20-year journey, as computer graphics lab even with hardware divisions, before Pixar was to become a fullblown animation studio. Their history includes legacy links to the likes of Lucas films and even Steve Jobs. At times the teams working on animation innovation were seen as nothing more than cash drain rather than the creative brain. Even Jobs, famously known for driving millions into innovation for the sake or creative perfection, reached several hankering or teetering moments to sell. The final temptation being, on the scheme of things, at the 11th hour not long before a $26 million, 3 movie deal, with Disney studios was sealed.
That first film, ‘Toy Story’ went on to gross over $300 million dollars worldwide and sealed Pixars fate, or is that legend, as an animation studio. The part of the business often seen as a revenue bleeding drain was now the entire brain. They’ve since gone from strength to strength, innovating production tools and methods within their industry, creating more than 19 full-length movies to date, generating over $14 billion in the process.
And let's not forget the emotionally imprinting, powerful life lessons and light they’ve given the world in the process. As a child, or even adult, you’ve no doubt got your own favorite icon from their collective gallery that you admire or adore. Who is it? Woody? Buzz Lightyear? Nemo? Dory? Bruce, the shark? Remy, the rat? Lightning Mcqueen? Mike Wazowski? Mine, I’m not afraid to share, be James P, Sullivan, AKA, Sully from the ‘Monsters Inc’ franchise films. After all, the notion that a child’s laughter is 100 times more powerful than a child’s scream is a beautiful philosophy to encourage behavioral change. I’ve even got a stuffed Sully toy for a reason, but that will keep for a live session or another time.
So, the tip here is kind of two fold. Dedicate appropriate slots of time and resources, that don’t necessarily feel like a drain on your business, to the task of creativity. Innovative thinking and creativity, like ongoing learning and development, are often sacrificed when we’re under the pump in the day-to-day grind. Yet these two elements are critical for sustainable ongoing success.
Leverage the same thinking of Pixars ‘Brains Trust’. Unlike many Hollywood studios, where executives decide and drive the process, Pixar encourage creative ideas from all layers of the business and creative peer to peer to review in order to take drive ideas successfully forward.
So, allow the time for creativity for all your team, including yourself, knowing the magic may take time plus its okay to keep some of that genius fermenting a while in the vault.
I’m generally not a Lady Gaga fan but regardless whether it’s artistic invention, disruptive innovation or relationship injection, I do concur with her perspective in the banner headline quote of this segment. Creativity is a module in my ‘5C Model’ for Leadership. Creativity is also a chapter in my first book ‘Ignite Your Potential’.
You don’t tackle innovation and creativity with fixed mindsets, limiting beliefs or lacklustre energy. You’ve got to give creative thinking some oomph! So here are 5 ways to induce your creative brain, team or solo, into the innovation game:
Begin your foray with some foreplay stimulating fertile thoughts through word puzzles and games.
Or lick your leading edge libido into shape by upping the tempo: listen to music. If you want to go all the way creative try tapping a little of ‘The Magic Flute’. There’s science to suggest music stimulates the creative juices, especially classical if you’re aware of the idea of the Mozart effect – placebo or not.
Bang your brains out by breaking as many norms in your day as you dare to adventure: wear your watch on the opposite wrist, try a variation of your morning coffee, walk a different route. In this instance, size doesn’t matter as new experiences, no matter how large or small, stimulate new sensory suppositions.
More sophisticated might be getting a little old school amorous with your mind. Gently massage and silence it through meditation to clear the way for some creativity.
Finally, make love with your logical side up to 6 different ways using De Bono’s ‘6 Thinking Hats’ as a play toy.
Ultimately, it is through shocking any missionary styled, analytical, fixed mindset that allows innovative agility and divergent thinking to be triggered. So when one learns to become mischievous with the mind, through creative play and power tools, that ultimately inspired thoughts are forced to come, or is that flow?
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Mark Carter has held senior and strategic leadership development roles globally. He has experience in over 40 countries, which translates to inclusivity with audiences, harmonising culture and encouraging discretionary effort and action. He is an accomplished development professional with multiple accreditations and practical hands-on experience establishing learning and development frameworks for small and medium-sized enterprises, through to blue chip billion dollar organisations.