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100% of Successful Businesses Unlock the Creativity of their Workforce




More than two out of five CEO’s now expect their next competitive threat to come from outside their industry. (CEO insights from the Global C-Suite study – IBM Institute of Business value). Business needs the creativity of their workforce to compete with these new competitors. 100% of successful businesses know how to unlock the creativity of their workforce to do just that. Leaders running these businesses understand that everyone is gifted and talented and all they have to do is provide the right leadership, tools, processes, and environment to unlock their potential.

Traditional businesses with outdated notions of leadership fail to inspire the creativity needed to successfully transition to the innovative new business models needed to thrive in this error of digital disruption. By way of example, I was recently talking with a brilliant senior systems engineer who told his boss they could save many thousands by re-engineering their legacy systems to meet the new business requirements. He was told by the manager that this was outside the scope of his job and to just get on with what was! When he goes to work he now powers down his creativity and directs it to projects in his own time.

His story got me thinking about the link between teachers and our schooling system and managers and our organisations.

My son Julian is in the 8th Grade at High School. A few months ago, I came home after work and found our dining room table converted into an art studio. He was asked to make a picture or a visual representation of the poem 'Clancy of the Overflow' written by Banjo Patterson in 1889. Patterson's poem tells the story of a city dweller's longing for the freedom and lifestyle of a drover (Australian Cowboy) in the Australian Outback. Julian decided to "modernise the drawing of the poem so that people could relate to it today." Here is the finished product.

To the left of the picture is Julian's modern day version of the concept of 'longing for freedom'. It shows a demotivated office worker in a dimly lit room. To the right of the picture is the office worker’s dream of being in the Australian outback.

When he presented his finished artwork I was rapt with his modern interpretation of the assignment. Wow! I exclaimed. I love the way he has taken the concept from the poem and added his own version of it. We were sure that his teacher would be impressed.

She wasn't.

Her response; “You will probably get a C for the assignment as you haven’t shown that you have an understanding of the timeline the poem was written in.” He was rightfully dejected.

I’m interested in how our workplaces mirror this type of attitude. I see the same thing in workplaces where people ‘give up’ their ideas to fit in with ‘standardised ways of doing things’. After hearing “That’s not how we do things around here!” and “We tried that before and it didn’t work” and “The big boss won’t like that”, many people surrender their creativity and motivation along with it.

Leaders who know how to elicit their people’s creativity and organise it into a customer-centric innovation are in short supply. More than half of executives (56%) report their companies are not ready to meet leadership needs (Global Human Capital Trends 2016, Deloitte)  

Many schools and workplaces are failing to read all of the indicators that they must change. If they don't, we will have kids leaving school and joining the workforce having had their creativity beaten out of them. If we don't transition our workplaces to encourage creative thinking business won't be successful.

Daniel Pink proposes in ‘A Whole New Mind’ that we are approaching The Conceptual Age. In the Conceptual Age, right-brain, creative skills will be key. Given the complexity and change of modern day environments, we need to go beyond just knowledge and expertise. Pink suggests the best employees of the future will excel at creative problem solving and different ways of thinking, synthesising seemingly diverse things together for better solutions.

We need this type of employee now and the good news is that we already have them within our workplaces. We just need to wake them up! Many are just hiding their creativity or have forgotten how to unlock it. Many have just had it beaten out of them in their youth we need to help them reconnect with it. Rethinking what type of leadership capability we need to thrive in this new age of disruption will be the key to being successful.

Everyone is creative.

The question leaders should be asking is “How can we unlock it?”

Oh and please feel free to leave any words of encouragement for Julian. He was a little reticent to show his drawing in this post.

Kristyn Haywood is the Founding Director of People for Success. Kristyn is passionate about helping organisations unlock the natural talents of their entire organisaton by re-shaping their cultures and developing 21st-century Leadership capability. Check-out People for Success'  Authentic Leadership ProgramTeam alignment workshops and cultural transformation journeys