I have been fortunate to work with organizations in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Uganda, Italy, France and Canada. Over the past 18 years, I have observed how people collaborate and create in these countries. There are similarities and there are differences, but one thing is very clear: Creativity and collaboration generate productive and effective business results.
In an Adobe study, 87% of individuals surveyed believed that creative thinking would increase their company’s revenue. Unfortunately, over 75% of respondents said that they are pressured to produce more, not think more. At the same time, they are also told to think creatively!
Similarly, a study by Dr. Gerard Puccio of the International Center for Studies in Creativity determined that over 61% of executives felt that creativity and collaboration would increase their company’s revenue, but they don’t have time for creative thinking.
There’s truth in these numbers, the Adobe study concluded. Companies that promote creative thinking are 3.5 times more likely to see a 10% or greater increase in revenue, compared to their less-creative counterparts. Many of the organizations I have helped to cultivate creativity and collaboration, such as Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark, Sanborns, and Telmex, have produced remarkable accomplishments.
It’s a paradox: On one hand, we know creative thinking and collaboration are key to success in business. On the other hand, most of our time and energy is focused on productivity and efficiency.
Why do people focus so much on results, if they believe collaboration and creativity can improve results? It’s because many leaders believe they control the organization’s output: “By Friday I want your department to increase productivity by 10%!” In actuality, leaders are not directly responsible for results. Organizations produce results.
So, how can leaders cultivate creativity?
Swedish researcher Göran Ekvall identified nine dimensions that affect, what he called a “creative climate”, in organizations:
- Time to ideate
- Managing conflict
- Being open for debate
- Idea support
- Risk taking
- Trust and openness
- Playfulness and humor
- Freedom and challenge
While leaders cannot directly affect results, they can develop these dimensions in their organization! Why is this so effective? The resulting climate creates an emotional connection with employees. People feel appreciated, valued and relevant. Fundamentally, when employees have an emotional connection, the entire organization becomes more engaged and more productive.
Creative thinking and collaboration are critical, yet in short supply at most companies. They are assets that enable employees to empathize with customers and with each other. They are the methods by which we generate trust in leaders and peers. They allow individuals to build on each other’s skills. They even help to retain employees and, of course, to generate growth. Business leaders that shift their focus from results to developing a creative climate will transform their organizations.
*Source: OVUM Collaboration 2.0 Report