Finding your competitive advantage
“The only sustainable competitive advantage – for individuals and companies – is creativity,” Josh Linkner author of Disciplined Dreaming.
Josh believes everyone is born with creativity but it’s beaten out of us by over-stretched educational systems, society, family, and businesses. I’ll give testimony to that truth.
Some years back I consciously decided to stop being creative where I worked. I can almost remember the day.
Navigating the maze of organizational structure, seeking approvals, and worrying about turf frustrated me and my bosses. It wasn’t worth the effort. It felt like ideas were inconvenient enemies rather than opportunities. I should have quit that day.
The Bad News
We are losing what makes us unique. Since 1990, creativity indicators have experienced a “very significant decrease” (Researcher Kyung Hee Kim*).
Reclaiming your competitive advantage
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen says, “… Creativity is close to 80% learned and acquired.**” I asked Josh how we can reclaim our creativity. His book is filled with ideas. A couple bubbled to the top.
“Give your people idea-time.” Josh Linkner has the audacity to suggest companies give employees 5% idea-time every week. For the math challenged, that’s two hours from a 40 hour work week. Take two hours a week and turn off tasks. Go for a walk, listen to music and just think of ideas.
The 30 day challenge
Josh says, “Try it for 30 days.” He believes idea-time works. If after 30 days, you don’t notice a positive difference then kill idea time. Does the thought of killing idea time sound counter-productive?
A simple awakening
Linkner suggested another simple approach to awaken your curiosity. Write three questions on a 3X5 card and always keep it handy.
Have those questions been beaten out of you? Asking them may help you reclaim your competitive advantage.
What can individuals and organizations do to enhance their creativity?
*Po Bronson and Ashely Merryman, “The Creativity Crisis,” Newsweek, July 19, 2010, p. 45
**Clayton Christensen and Hal Gregersen, “The Innovator’s DNA,” Harvard Business Review, December 21, 2009.
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Some companies, notably Google, are very good at this. In mine, unfortunately, the pressure of producing tends to push aside the valuable but not urgent things like training, and idea time. I’m going to try it, but will have a fight on my hands.
social work/ family therapy and allied health professionals often engage in monthly professional supervision (1hr) with a person external to their organisation. Often this may be complemented with quarterly group supervision with colleagues in the workplace. In business this may be likened to coaching.
In these sessions the individual or group engages in critical reflection on their practice, their workplace and how services are delivered.
Being offered space to examine and explore their performance, ideas, motivation and work-life balance frees professionals to engage in double loop learning and ask similar questions to those outlined in your post specifically-
‘What do I think about the way we usually do things?’
‘Is there another way?’
‘What would a client want us to do differently?’
A good example in action relates to work this week with a Family Violence organisation where a professional piloted a court support approach for women applying for Intervention Orders at Court. A professional used supervision time to explore ‘let’s imagine clients received support at the times they most need it, and that service delivery could be seamless.”
Raising a solution focussed discussion ‘ if things could be done differently or better …what would that look like?’ ‘what would you need?’ and ‘how would your circle of influence be recruited to achieve this positive outcome’ … raising these questions and envisioning a positive outcome inspires creativity and helps motivation rise to the required level.
Thank you again, Dan, for the opportunity to critically reflect on what best supports creativity in the workplace.
Idea time really is ideal. Add to that I think it works. My experience though is aligned to Greg’s comment above in that I see more companies pushing the here and now production rather than also allowing their people to lift their heads up a little and be creative rather than reactive. I think the cost of not doing it is going to be your business falling behind or losing the people that can lead your business if not both.
I love the idea of creative time. I’m mulling around in my mind a “community creativity time” where I lead – inviting anyone who wants to gather in the community room of our office to sit together with coffee and brainstorm a list of 15 crazy thoughts in 15 minutes. Maybe we do this once a week for a month and see what kind of creativity it drums up in people outside of the “community” time.
Josh’s book has a ton of great ideas for community creative time.
FYI…review tomorrow and 15 copy giveaway.
Sounds great. Now how can I ensure I get a copy of the book? 😉
I can be bribed.. ;-+
Mark DeMoss, owner of the DeMoss Group, a public relations firm in Atlanta, writes that he gives his people “thinking time,” which he admits, can look suspiciously like resting time! In his book The Little Red Book of Wisdom, he writes: “Good thinking isn’t one more task of a multitasker; it needs its own time.” He offers some creative ways to build that thinking time into your life: eat lunch alone a couple times a week, exercise without music or entertainment, turn off the radio when you’re in the car. Use those quiet moments to just think.
What can individuals and organizations do to enhance their creativity?
One thing I have been thinking a lot about recently is the intersection of “business” and “altruism.” Different leaders of our organization have had different views regarding the involvement of the organization in altruistic endeavors. For instance, we had a corporate “Relay for Life” team for several years under a previous leader. Obviously the bit of time we took away from “real work” to plan our team was not directly related to our product. HOWEVER, I saw creativity, bonding, and a general “lifting of spirits” among team members who wouldn’t have crossed each others’ paths in a normal workday. I think in the long run it was a “win win” both for our overall productivity business-wise and for our general contribution to the “positive karma” fund of the universe.
Idea-time works. I do it, believe it and practice it. Your interest could be different from listening music, but the main idea behind idea time is to quench your interest and that provides more freedom to mind. When mind is free, thoughts generate creativity. This idea is similar to managment style called, management by walking around. The why, why not and what if are really powerful boundary stretcher. Not questioning may sometimes satisfy it, but it does not expand your boundary. Whe asking why and why not, it increases options, widens scopes and enhances creativity.
I think organisations can provide freedom and flexibility to individuals to use their creativity and resist to criticise in case it fails. They should also appreciate and encourage creativity, discourage information blockers, rumourmongers etc. It means creating trasparency, rewarding efforts and discouraging unethical practices will enhanace creativity.
Hi Dan –
I’m a big fan of idea time. In fact, that’s really what’s happening during my daily, morning dog walks. It helps a lot that we have woods and fields where we live so the walking is easy, but the opportunity to simply let the mind roam (while the dog does the same) is very beneficial.
And while Josh has (and will have) a more impressive track record than I ever will, I still challenge the question of “Why not?” Personally, I’m more a fan of “How yes?” It is still possible while answering How Yes to realize there simply isn’t enough reason, but I prefer the more positive approach versus Why Not, which has served admirably to kill more enthusiasm and good ideas than perhaps any other single method.
One boy’s opinion…