During the Corona-crisis the energy in organizations has clearly shifted towards more agility and creativity. If this trend was present before the crisis, it has clearly been accelerated and more widely spread by the demands of the crisis. Moreover, it seems this shift is here to stay. Leaders desire an even greater focus on agility and creativity. The question now is how to make this happen, how to keep the momentum and build on the experiences of the last couple of months.
The first step for leaders is to create self-awareness about the way they themselves deal with creativity. They can do this by identifying their own preferences in a creative problem solving process and learn to put creativity at the center of problem solving in their organization.
A shift in focus towards more creativity during the Corona crisis
According to the Global Covid 19 culture assessment launched by the Barrett Institute, employees have experienced that there has been a shift in values and culture in their organization. Before the Corona crisis, most employees described that their organization was focused mainly on performance, control and hierarchy, while during the corona crisis they experienced a positive change towards values around agility and creativity, with a higher focus on people and working together. While innovation and digitalization have been driving transformation in organizations for some time now, it is obvious that the corona crisis has forced everybody to embrace this sudden change to the fullest. Even organizations who were champions in innovation before the crisis, have been through an accelerated change and learning process the last couple of months..
Leaders agree the shift should remain after the crisis
As for many other positive changes that emerged during this crisis, the question here is how this shift in values and culture can be sustained now that we are slowly moving out of the crisis. Leaders all over the world agree that a focus on agility and creativity is the only way to recover and thrive in the future. Looking at the uncertainty and the challenges ahead, one could say the corona crisis led to a wake up call that there is no other option than to embrace innovation and change in order for any organization to be future proof. So, how do you make that happen?
How do you deal with creativity ?
For an organization to keep culture and values alive, it is crucial that the leaders embrace those values, that those values determine their behavior. Whether leaders will manage to keep agility and creativity alife, will depend on their capability to capitalize on their own experience during the crisis. It starts with understanding how they dealt with the crisis themselves, how they embraced the need for agility and creativity. This is not an abstract analysis, but it refers to the concrete way challenges are tackled and problems are solved.
When faced with a problem we generally follow 4 steps: we clarify the problem to better understand and define more precisely what exactly has to be solved, we generate ideas about how to solve the problem, we develop ideas into concrete solutions and we implement the solutions. Studies show that we all have a high or low preference for one or more phases in this problem solving process and that we tend to be more creative in the phases for which we have a high preference. By spending more time and energy in our preferred phases we will naturally broaden our perspective. In the clarifying phase we will analyze the problem more deeply, considering all possible angles, before identifying the exact problem to solve. With a preference for generating ideas, we will easily identify a lot of ideas as well as new and original ideas. There is never only one answer to the question ‘How can we solve this problem?’ Thinking in options and finding opportunities is what gives energy, the more the better. Once an idea is chosen to be further developed and tested and we have a low preference for developing, we don’t want to think too much about different ways to make it happen. We prefer to start implementing immediately. With a high preference for developing, on the contrary, we will want to spend most of our time considering different possibilities, identifying issues to be solved and solutions to be tested before moving into implementation. Finally, with a high preference for implementing, we will prefer to spend our time and energy looking at different ways to further shape our idea while implementing.
Asking a lot of questions, thinking in options, generating a lot of ideas, considering different possibilities, looking for new solutions, is precisely what creativity is about. Having a low preference for a certain phase, makes me want to skip that phase. It demands a lot more energy to be open for different possibilities and look for new and original ideas.
Knowing your high and low preferences in the creative solving problem process, gives you a way to understand how you deal with creativity, at which phases you tend to spend most of your time and energy, in which phases you are intuitively creative.
As your preferences in the creative problem solving process will affect the way you perceive creativity, the way you use creativity in your decision making and the way you interact with others/other preferences, you want to start with understanding and managing your own preferences. Do I favor creativity in the ideation phase of the creative problem solving process and how does that affect my decision making? If I have a preference for the implementation phase, how do I deal with team members who favor clarification ? How can I respect and stimulate their creativity ?
Put creativity at the center of problem solving
Considering creativity in the framework of problem solving, opens up a realm of possibilities to actively stimulate creativity in your organisation. The power consists in using it as a tool to create awareness about the level of creativity that is present in your way of working, that of your team, and even of the organization at large. You can actively work on elements that are less present and recognize those that are already strong. Start by naming the 4 steps as well as the need to think creatively in every step of the problem solving process. Once you start using the concepts as a common language within your team and your organization, you put creativity at the centre of problem solving and at the same time you keep the value of creativity alive. The next step is to further develop your and your team’s creative thinking skills, but let’s take one step at a time.