As competition rises and change becomes constant, organizations are searching for new ways to improve processes. This is driving the need for more entrepreneurial leaders that can implement creative approaches to process improvement and service delivery. Now, the imperative for leaders is to gain a better understanding of the creative process, and realize how creativity can be applied to solving strategic challenges. In fact, IBM’s Creative Leadership Study identified creativity as the #1 leadership quality needed in today’s business environment.
The challenge in initiating the creative process, as an executive, lies in breaking down bureaucratic, risk-averse thinking in an effort to create a culture where challenging assumptions is encouraged. The IBM Creative Leadership Study found that leaders who embrace the dynamic tension between creative disruption and operational efficiency could create new models with extraordinary value. In a complex environment, it is about taking processes apart, analyzing their distinct parts, and implementing each element into something new, seamless, and complete.
“Creative leadership involves not only leaders generating their own ideas, but also creating an environment in which other people’s ideas come to the fore.” -David Magellan Horth, Center for Creative Leadership
As Horth indicates in the quote above, creative leadership is not a one-man job. Leaders must cultivate creativity by encouraging others to leave behind outdated, inefficient processes and take balanced-risks. Organizational creativity will increase when leadership styles adjust to support innovation in “top-down” and “bottom-up” initiatives- working as a whole to connect ideas and people in new ways. In order to effectively implement this strategy, IBM instructs organizations to follow these three steps to create a fusion of ideas:
1. Uncover the key capabilities of the creative organization
In order to solve complex problems, it is necessary to create a fusion of system thinking and design thinking, operational efficiency and creative disruption. Inspire action while maintaining discipline.
2. Unlock and Catalyze the creative capabilities of leaders
Distinguish your team’s capabilities. Form small, cross-functional teams for high impact results that address bold business challenges.
3. Unleash and scale organizational creativity
Share information to communicate common goals. Influence collective behavior through real-time analytics.
The benefits of creative leadership are clear. It enables a wide range of product, process, and business model innovations. However, many organizations feel hesitant to initiate innovation and creativity in the midst of a volatile business environment. Perhaps it is a natural instinct that causes us to prefer the safer option: batten the hatches and hunker down until the storm is over, then we can survey the changed landscape that has been left behind. Unfortunately, that strategy often leaves organizations in the dust- years, or even decades, behind the industry leaders.
In today’s unpredictable and complex business environment, rapid adaptability is fundamental to success. Creative leadership, at its core, is about seeking new opportunities, even during tough times and under difficult circumstances. The key to succeeding at organizational creativity is initiating change at a time when the greatest advantage can be gained. As long as organizations maintain focus on goal completion, and build a solid balance of people vs. processes, organizational creativity can be an invaluable tool to business improvements and innovations during a time of change.