Most of us live in the world of “how”. We dwell on solutions to problems, we argue about which of two or three ways to proceed or positions to support. We are bombarded with “sound bites” which polarize us into selecting one of two opposing opinions and deepening our belief in one or the other. We get frustrated and see ourselves worlds apart. However, we may be a lot closer than we think. We just haven’t paid enough attention to why we are trying to do it instead of how we are going to do it.
It all goes back to the definition of creativity – we are very firm on not having any definition of creativity. If you ask fifteen different people what animal do they think best illustrates creativity, you’re going to get 15 different answers. Playing this up further, someone likes peacocks because it has got a lot of color – someone else likes raccoons because they can solve problems. There are some people that say, well, there are people who can get things done quickly. We stay away from that. What we do is we try to educate people, that the creative process is everything and if you’re not going through the creative process, people have different skills in all of them.
Instead of running more and more employee engagement surveys, why not just start involving employees in problem solving? People like solving problems. If you are a leader, why not coach your employees to work together to solve work problems that are important to them. Don’t solve the problems for them. Help them use their own creativity. Be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.
Before you can solve a problem, you have to understand it… And you can’t understand it if you are not sure what the words mean. When we are kids, we think simple and we talk simple. As we grow older, we start learning bigger and bigger words. Some of us are reluctant to ask for clarification for fear of appearing ignorant or unprepared. And sometimes we hide behind complicated language which disguises what we really mean.
Have you noticed that problem generation does not come easily to many people? They prefer to wait for others to surface problems and to take the lead in finding opportunities for improvement and new approaches. This applies to people at all levels of organizations, including leaders.
Would any automobile company try to build a new car without an assembly line? Just dump the parts on the factory floor and say “go to it” to the workers? Of course not. We all know that the assembly line is a necessary part of building a car that actually works.
Are you in an organization in which the leaders understand problem-solving and implementing, but are a bit fuzzy about problem generation and conceptualization? It can be frustrating when you know that the secret of organizational effectiveness requires both efficiency AND adaptability – or in other words, all four of these capabilities. Simply put, many organizations favor efficiency at the expense of adaptability. They become blind to other possibilities.
We live and work in an era of rapidly accelerating change with frequent upheavals and interruptions. Everywhere we look, traditional structures are abruptly being reshaped or falling down. Many organizations that prospered during more stable times – times that rewarded routinized efficiency – now find themselves poorly adapted to today’s new economic and social realities.