Business as usual is not the new normal.
Sure, sure, sure…. we have all heard this. The reason we hear it so often is that it’s true.
We know that change has always been here however….it has never been so rapid.
This can fill people with severe panic chills or tinges of excitement. I like to take the excitement route. The good news is that we, human beings, are hardwired to thrive in a rapidly changing environment.
And that brings me to a key theme of my thinking around innovation, and also a key driver of all innovation – people. Innovation doesn’t happen to people, people create innovation. Not processes, not frameworks, it’s people.
It’s the uniquely human skills we have – our curiosity, our diversity, our creativity and our imagination that are becoming more important than ever in a rapidly changing environment. These are the things that will enable us to differentiate and thrive over the next ten years.
There are some key workforce trends that are driving this as well.
The World Economic Forum surveyed 350 executives across 9 industries in 15 of the world’s biggest economies around what skills were needed to thrive in the workforce of 2020. They list creativity, which it defines as “the ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation” as the third most important skill.
Have a look at the shifts between 2015 and 2020. Creativity is the big mover. Quality control has dropped completely off the list. This is something that can be automated.
Everything in 2020 is human centred. In 2020, being human is cool.
These wonderful things that make us human are becoming more important than others.
It’s about embracing who we really are. Were designed to solve wicked problems. We’re designed to be curious and wonder “what if?” We’re designed to imagine possibilities and dream around what’s possible.
We’re not robots. And let’s talk about robots.
We are constantly hearing about the rise of AI and the threat of a jobless future. Some of the reports I hear can be somewhat similar to doomsday scenarios.
One of the best explanations I have heard on AI was at a recent book launch on Digital Disruption. I was listening to a panel member who is heavily involved with AI at Microsoft. He said the way to explain it is that AI is not to be feared, it’s just taking away the repeatable tasks. The focus shouldn’t be on taking away jobs. The focus should be on the time it gives people back to do deep work, to do connected work, to take the time to think. It gives people time to explore fresh ideas and connect with their clients. This involves being curious, using your imagination and allowing yourself to think creatively.
So, these uniquely human skills are becoming more important than ever. However, there is a bit of a problem.
I have delivered well over 1000 events over the last 15 years and worked with such amazing people but one of the themes that have stuck is the same story people tell about their creativity, curiosity and imagination.
They believe they don’t have any OR they are too scared to show it at work.
There is a lot of confusion around creativity. It’s almost like a swear word – people look down when you mention it.
Let’s Start with What Creativity Isn’t
It’s not just for people who:
- Drink kale, beetroot and quinoa smoothies
- Watch foreign language films on SBS whilst meditating
- Write an eight page poem about their coffee cup
Well what is it then? If you are born, you are creative. It’s that simple.
Creativity, curiosity and imagination is for everyone. It’s what makes us unique. The innovation, the creativity that I know is joyous, it’s super fun and can take you down paths that you don’t even know existed – and most likely you will be creating for the first time. And that’s exciting.
John Cleese says that creativity isn’t taught, it’s liberated. So how do you liberate bring these uniquely human skills into your organisation? It’s not as hard as you may think.
Two Easy Ways to Spark Creativity (That Don’t Cost a Cent)
1. Use your imagination and ask great questions
Einstein said, “It’s important to never stop questioning”. And that’s exactly the approach you need to take. One way to incorporate this into your organisation is to work with the “Five Whys”. They were made famous by Sakichi Toyoda, and used within Toyota Motors to help it become the powerhouse it is today.
To use this technique, you need to ask “Why?” in response to a statement of the problem you’re having. Keep asking “Why?” for each answer, until you’ve asked (at least) five times. This will bring you to the very core problem, every time. If you don’t feel you’re quite there yet, just ask “Why?” again.
2. Be curious and hear from everyone
One of Google’s Innovation Pillars is “look for ideas everywhere”. Susan Wojcicki, Google’s former Senior Vice President of Advertising and current YouTube CEO, said, “As the leader of our ads products, I want to hear ideas from everyone – and that includes our partners, advertisers, and all of the people on my team. I also want to be a part of the conversations Googlers are having in the hallways”. It doesn’t matter where you work, or what your role is within a company. No matter how far removed from the problem someone seems, there are great ideas everywhere.
Remember: innovation starts with people. Not with systems or things, but with people.
There are already great people in your organisation, and there could already be a thousand little light bulbs going off all over your company.
Make sure you see and hear them all.
About the Author
Author of the game-changing book, A Thousand Little Lightbulbs: How to Kickstart a Culture of Innovation in Your Organisation, Simon Banks brings you a BS-free guide to dealing with your creative OGRE, taking off the blinkers and leveraging the greatest innovation tool in your business. He’s worked to bring fresh thinking and innovation out of teams with companies that include: EY, Chevron, BHP Billiton, Sportsbet, Suncorp, NAB, Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie University, The QLD Government, and Volkswagen, to name a few.