“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued. So it’s much more about creating climates. I think it’s a big shift for a lot of people.” – Sir Ken Robinson, author and creativity expert
One theme I’ve trumpeted over and over in my career is that everyone has creativity. The challenge has been that if people don’t believe their creative their right, that people don’t have the confidence necessary to be creative, and that creativity is some form of loosely define chaos. If we could overcome those three barriers we’d have a lot more creative people coming up with creative solutions.
But instead we tend to think of creativity as an off-or-on button. You either have it or you don’t. In reality, however, different people are creative in different ways. So, if you acknowledge that, and treat them as creative people, you’ll find they are so!
But there is, of course, a problem with raw creativity. Without creativity being funneled into a desired output, it’s not going to help. As I read somewhere once, creativity without strategy is like a spark plug without gasoline. It makes a loud, bright spark, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.
Creativity is also much more effective when combined with it’s cousin, innovation, which is taking someone else’s creation and making it better. A great example of that is Apple, which didn’t invent the computer, the MP3 player, or the PDA, but instead applied their special brand of magic to them, and wound up being a dominant force. The “creative” people were IBM. Rio and Nokia (remember the 9000 communicator). But those companies didn’t get value from their creativity.
Meanwhile Steve Jobs and Apple saw the need made significant improvements in each area, with a focus on user experience, and re-imagined the entire company. Strategically they built on the phone/PDA’s that had gone before them, and created the iPhone. They knew if the could get the iPhone into enough hands it would demonstrate the usability, effectiveness, and simplicity of Apple products. The essentially created new product category – the iPhone vs. the phone.
The iPad wasn’t the first tablet, but the design and ease of use has swept the world and dominated the category, to the point that HP has decided to back out of the product category.
If you look at the results, you’ll see that Apple is also shipping and selling more computers than ever, a classic flanking maneuver. Steve Jobs has created that culture by expecting, and even demanding innovation as well as creativity.
My point isn’t that creativity isn’t important or valuable, it’s just that it provides the most value in concert with innovation and strategy. Unbridled creativity can cause more problems in chaos and “firefighting” that it does positive benefit.