How can an autumn sweep provide more time and space for creativity to flourish in your company?

What is the current state of the nation as far as creativity is concerned? ...

In an IBM study, back in 2010, more than 1,500 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) from over 60 countries and 33 industries ranked creativity as the number one skill in helping their companies deal with a complex and ever-changing world. According to the survey, the majority saw creativity as the only quality that could help them navigate a challenging business environment characterised by several large-scale and volatile shifts.

What is the current state of the nation as far as creativity is concerned? What’s happened during the last 10 years? And what is required today during the daunting Covid era? 

In 2020, GENIUS YOU carried out a study involving over 2000 respondents from 17 multi-nationals across 10 sectors. The study analysed information extracted from a psychometric survey completed by respondents in the period 2015-2020 which explored the creative strengths of individuals. In the survey, they were asked one open-ended question: “Do you have any suggestions for how your organisation can improve creativity at work?” The findings made for some interesting reading.

  1. Time poverty.Just over 10% of all responses to the question complained that there was insufficient time available in the workplace to allow the creative juices to flow. One verbatim quote: “Our biggest downfall within the business is not giving enough time to creative thinking. We need to put importance on thinking as much as doing. The team are constantly executing projects but spend little time crafting new creative ideas”.
  2. Process overload.12% of all responses indicated that many organisations are swamped by a myriad of processes and procedures, structures and systems that simply serve to clog up the working day. Companies are also extinguishing the creative spark by installing an over-abundance of committees, checks and reviews at different stages of the creative process.
  3. A lack of brainstorm workshops.A significantly high 18% of responses pointed towards a dearth of brainstorming time. Employees remain chained to their computers, unable to leave them for a couple of hours or days in order to share and build ideas with colleagues. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that point 1 plus point 2 probably add up to point 3.

So what’s the solution? What can we do to create more time and space for creativity? After all, isn’t Covid-19 giving us the burning platform we need? Has there ever been a time in our working lives when it has been more important to find creative solutions to the constraints and challenges placed in front of us? The simple answer is ‘no, never’.

I believe that there is one thing that we can do. In the same way that many households are currently putting their gardens to bed for the winter, corporations should also use Covid-19 as an excuse to carry out their own equivalent of an autumn sweep. This is how it would go:

  1. Process pruning. Take a good, hard look at all the processes in place and work out which ones really add value to the business. If they don’t add sufficient value to merit a place at the corporate table, then prune back hard. It’s unlikely that anybody is going to complain about not having to fill in a template or two.
  2. Space to breathe. The net effect of a hard process prune is that all of a sudden, the clutter will begin to clear away, and companies will start to enjoy a strong sense of catharsis. It will be that same feeling gardeners get when all the weeds are dug up, the lawn is given its final trim, and all the dead leaves are disposed of. The garden has been given the equivalent of a short, back and sides and you are gifted with the space to create when spring returns.
  3. Use the time wisely.  The autumn sweep will have provided individuals and organisations with a window of opportunity. The absence of commuting time for many of us will only serve to increase the amount of mind space available. The trick is to use it productively. Instead of filling it with more boring bureaucracy, how about inserting a weekly Zoom/Microsoft Teams session, involving a smorgasbord of random colleagues, who meet up to tackle a challenge the business is currently facing? An opportunity to bring together a set of disparate and diverse minds with fresh perspectives. Interestingly, the one problem highlighted in the GENIUS YOU study that drew most responses (almost 23%) was an absence of cross-pollination in the business. In other words, the one resource that companies have in abundance is the one thing they are least exploiting. Their people.

And here is the most important point of all. By addressing time poverty, reducing process overload and using the space made available to cross-fertilize on a weekly basis, employees will not only be able to contribute to the creative process, but they will also have a much better chance of protecting the most valuable asset of all. 

Written by Mark Simmonds.

Mark Simmonds is a creativity, insight and innovation expert and the founder of GENIUS YOU– a company which helps teams develop winning ideas by strengthening creative muscles 

For more information about how your organisation can maximise its creative potential, contact mark@geniusyou.co.uk.

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