Robert F. Kennedy popularized the notion that dreaming of things that never were and asking “Why not?” could change the future. In the decades since his death, the business world has focused more on efficiency than on imagining a different world. But with innovation now recognized as a key corporate capability, the value of questioning has roared back to the forefront.
We live in a world grown skeptical of ‘new and improved’ products and services. Too often, the change is a marketing gimmick – the same old product in a new color, size or package. Sometimes a flashy new gadget or feature is sold as innovation. Invariably, these products fail to improve a company’s market share because they simply don’t offer customers anything they need.
When I talk about creativity, it isn’t uncommon for people to tell me that they aren’t the ‘creative type,’ as if creativity were an unchangeable trait akin to eye color or height. While it is often viewed as an innate skill that people are born with, the truth, however, is that creative thinking is actually a readily-taught set of skills, attitudes and behaviors.
In today’s world of information, innovation and ideas, brainpower is undoubtedly the most valuable asset most corporations own. Like financial or physical assets, which are safeguarded, insured and audited, the resource of talented human beings is an asset that needs to be equally valued.
Municipal politicians in the small town of Pelham, Ontario are investing in the development of internal creative leadership skills, as they work toward transforming the town’s creative culture. Beginning with the question ‘How Might We…?’, Pelham is looking to change how it approaches challenges and opportunities.
In more stable business climates of decades past, chief executives could leverage efficiency to achieve success. Closely managed corporate routines could be made a little quicker, a little smoother and a little cheaper to maximize profit and improve the bottom line. While that skill still has its place in the boardroom, today’s chaotic and unpredictable business climate also demands that executive leaders learn an entirely new skill: how to be adaptable. Managing organizational routines tightly will produce efficiencies but adaptable CEOs have mastered a much more challenging process of deliberately changing routines.