I recently saw a video featuring the IBM Design Studios. It described our Design Thinking and how we’ve put into place “people”, “places” and “processes” to re-establish our customer-focused design of solutions. There were scenes of creative spaces, walls covered with sticky notes and hand drawings. There were messy desks and people seated in circles on the floor. There were computers, but the focus appeared to be on the people, the expression of ideas, and unbounded open collaboration. You could almost smell the white board markers.
As I watched alongside other IBM employees, business partners and customers, I had a co-worker lean over to me and say, “That would be a great place to work.”
IBM CEO Ginni Rometty once said, “In a social enterprise, your value will not be what you know; it will be what you share.” The atmosphere I observed at the IBM Design Studios is one that a recent study by the IBM Center for Applied Insights, Charting the social universe, confirmed. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents defined the term “social business” as being all about collaboration. That is, a social business is one that uses social technology to foster collaboration among customers, employees and partners. In fact, one of the most common entry points for organizations deploying social capabilities centers on the goal of driving internal and external collaboration through collaborative apps, enterprise social networks and social media marketing.
So, in an environment that is all about collaboration, where your value is defined by your ability to share (your expertise, insights, ideas), how do you actually find something of value to share?
In 2010, the IBM CEO study found that the most desired quality for leaders in the next five years was “creativity.” And in 2012, the CEO study results informed us that executives expect their successful employees to be “collaborative, communicative, flexible and creative.” Yet in the same year, the 2012 Adobe State of Create study indicated that only one in four of us believe we are living up to our creative potential and three out of four are feeling increased pressure to be “productive” rather than “creative.”
Check out the English thesaurus for the word creative, and you will find the normally expected words like innovative, imaginative, etc. But you will also find productive. Creativity is NOT the opposite of productivity; it is in fact the same thing. Sir Ken Robinson defined creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.”
So what’s stifling creativity?
“We are all born artists,” Pablo Picasso once said, “The challenge is to remain an artist as we grow up.”
SIDE EXPERIMENT: Open a new box of Crayola crayons, close your eyes and take a deep breath. Remember those days when you couldn’t wait to pull out your favorite colors and a bland sheet of white construction paper seemed like an invitation to share an idea.
Ask any room of kindergarten students (I’ve done this), “Who here is an artist?” Almost without exception, all hands go up. Take that same question up a few grades and the hands decrease. By the time you reach high school, not only do the hands not go up, but the entire room usually looks around for “that guy (or girl)” who has their hand raised…that student who thinks “differently.”
In one of his most popular TED talks, Sir Ken Robinson tells a story of a young girl who usually was quite disruptive in class, yet during a drawing assignment, she was intently focused on the work at hand. The teacher who was curious, approached the child and asked, “So dear, what are your drawing?” To which the girl answered, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The well-educated teacher decided to inform the girl, “But dear, no one knows what God looks like.” To which the creative soul, without even looking up, stated, “They will in a minute.”
Watch kids play and create. They are not constrained by our self-prescribed boundaries. They aren’t afraid to fail. They are only compelled to explore and learn. They are a sponge. What happens to our young artist? And why are our corporations struggling to find the creative spark?
I work frequently with Human Resource professionals. To meet the demand, they are beginning to not look for those applicants that have the “answers” but instead are looking for those who have the “right questions”…the curious. In fact, a recent Global WorkTrends study of over thirty thousand workers found that high potential employees are more engaged, satisfied, collaborative and innovative.
I believe there are a number of things that have brought us to where we are. They include the industrial revolution, our education system, our success and our fear of failure. I also passionately believe there are a number of approaches we can take to correct the situation and reignite the creative spark that is in each of us. We need to avoid the “God complex,” consider where work gets done, use open and closed modes and connect. And social business behaviors and solutions can assist in this effort.
For more detail, I invite you to view this 20-minute presentation on the topic.
I welcome your creative comments and feedback.
To learn more:
- Riding the social technology rocket ship #IBMSocialStudy
- Learning from your best through workforce science
- Find more posts by Louis on his blog at www.creativitycrisis.com