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Lack of Organizational Creativity? How to Determine if it’s a Mission, Leadership, Process or Employee Issue.

New ideas are a key lifeline for organizations to enable long-term, sustainable growth. Employees who are in the trenches every day interacting with customers and stakeholders regularly talk about how things aren’t working, what they’d do to change it and what is happening in the real world that could be a risk or an opportunity. However, countless organizations haven’t taken the time or effort to develop and nurture this process. There are many reasons why that might be.

A Mission Issue

The problem might be within your mission, vision or strategic plan. If your organization doesn’t espouse continuous learning and improvement as core to their being, or as a key component that supports meeting the goals of the mission, it’s hard to operationalize creativity and idea generation.

If improvement, learning and new ideas aren’t placed high up in your organization’s ideals, then it’s time to look at how it is being integrated into key strategies, initiatives and programs. This is where leadership comes into the fray.

A Leadership Issue

If key executives are not holding teams accountable for setting up a culture and processes that put new idea generation central in their work and for having similar processes in place for new ideas to make those programs better, there won’t be much set up. There might be some ‘rogue’ groups that have leaders who set up processes for ideas. But, leaders that don’t insist on a creative-mindset will not get one. You’ll get the results you’re structured to get.

A Process Issue

Most of the time, ideas come through the organization without a lot of meat on them. There are broader considerations that would make a specific idea not plausible at the time. That doesn’t mean the idea is bad or that there aren’t positive things that could be done with this early part of the creative process. However, if there’s not a process to either store these ideas or look to put more substance to the thoughts, they will end up withering away.

An Employee Issue

It’s rarely this. You may have a preponderance of employees who are more inclined to do what they are told to do, but even then, they have ideas on how to make processes and products better. It’s just that nobody is encouraging them to say anything, or help them build out an idea. If you have too many such people, you probably have other issues that are larger.

What Can You Do?

So, you want to build a more creative organization. Where can you start? Many times the task seems so large that people don’t start. The key things is to just start. Take baby steps and progress from there. Your lack of creativity didn’t come overnight; it won’t be turned around overnight.

Here are some things you could consider doing, regardless of whether you have a formal process set up.

    • Encourage people who bring forth an idea to flesh it out further. Start the process to empower them and appreciate them.
      • How would the idea fit in with the mission, vision or strategic plan?
      • What would the process to make the idea come to life look like?
      • Who would need to be involved?
      • What could the revenue or cost implications be?
    • Be a part of their discovery process. Guide them through the idea generation process and check their logic. Help them discover items you may already see. This way, they progress and become more capable.
    • Don’t shut down or accept the idea at first blush, unless the idea is so great and doesn’t involve any other teams that it can be implemented right away. Come up with a recording process with your fellow leaders, rudimentary or sophisticated, to log these ideas to check for common threads with other ideas in the organization.
    • Meet regularly with the leadership team to go over generated ideas. Do some work beforehand to see if there are common themes in your list and confer with your colleagues. If there are common threads, the ideas may be worth a closer look.
    • Set up a communication process that can let people know what is done with ideas, what came in over a particular period, what was accepted, what was passed on and why. Also, updates on ideas that were accepted or looked at again and accepted should be put into the mix as well.
    • Have your employees have input and even design a creative communication process. If the process is there’s, they will be more apt to use it. If they are also involved in the decision stages, even better.

In the end, having even a basic, manual process for generating and reviewing ideas and then communicating back what happened and how they did or didn’t connect with the organization’s mission goes a long way to strengthen an aligned culture. Employees will feel empowered, feel more connected with leadership, have development opportunities woven into areas that interest them and have chances to develop stronger teamwork within and across teams.

Even if the ideas that come out of the process initially don’t look promising, the results of the process will bring tangential benefits in of itself.

Give it a try and see what happens.

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