The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation. – Bob Iger
As leaders, we are in continuous pursuit of great ideas. We all hold one similar goal across industries: strive to think big, to have that million dollar idea, to be creative. But how do we approach this goal? How can we, as leaders, foster environments of innovative thinking and creativity?
Here are four strategies that will help you lead creative teams:
1. It’s all about environment. Good ideas come from putting yourself in an environment where you’re rubbing up against other creative people – an environment where you’re focused and able to capture whatever breakthrough unfolds. Currently, we’re working on Catalyst University 2017, our annual leadership conference. We are curating the speaker lineup, what the show itself will look like and creative audience experience elements. To do this successfully, we’re taking our event team offsite this week to begin brainstorming. We’re going to unplug and escape to a place where we are free to think, dream and minimize distractions. Could we do all of this planning from our office? Yes. But would the results be the same? No, because creativity requires the right environment.
2. Be intentional about creating “mashups.” Greatness is a result of bringing unique and different people, times, experiences and environments together in an unexpected way – in what we call mashups. Frans Johansson spoke to us at Catalyst University 2016 this January about this, encouraging us to find the intersection of two or more seemingly unrelated concepts where true innovation can take place. Take the music industry for example. Most songs today aren’t written by a single person; in fact they never have been. There’s typically a group of people that works behind the scenes to produce good pieces. Performances are the same way. There have been amazing mashups between artists like Aerosmith with Run DMC or Lady Gaga with Elton John. It’s completely unexpected, but it works. When you look at the best movies or the top selling books, they are always a result of teams of people working to create together.
3. Give space for ideas to transform. As leaders, we must create space for innovation to come to life. Point leaders, in particular, need to step back and allow their teams to create. Trust me, this sounds much easier than it actually is, but it is critical. Because of direct and perceived authority, if point leaders participate too strongly in the creative process, our teams look to us to “arbitrate” or determine what ideas are good and what ideas are bad. Instead, leaders need to simply participate and avoid dominating the conversation. Otherwise, at the end of the session, all we will get is validation of what may be our worst ideas.
4. Set guardrails. Scott Belsky, who also joined us for Catalyst University 2016 says, “The one thing we seldom talk about: the execution side of creativity. It’s really about making ideas happen.” Creative meetings regularly start running in directions that don’t have anything to do with the purpose. To counter this, I like to set guardrails so we can operate within some type of framework. To get anything of value accomplished, we have to align our purpose and not have a free for all. We’ve got to give our teams permission to think big, but we’ve got to hold those same people responsible for execution and seeing those ideas come to fruition. Big thinking without execution is wasted opportunity.
May these four strategies help you and your teams be even more creative this year and beyond.
Question: How do you foster environments of innovative thinking and creativity in your sphere of work? What do you do to ensure the execution of great ideas?