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Creative And Innovative Culture, Change Management 'Three Easy Tests

Creativity can be defined as problem identification and idea generation and innovation can be defined as idea selection, development and commercialisation. From this simple definition, it is clear that certain cultural characteristics ought to be prevalent if creativity and innovation are to be maximised. And maximisation of these ought to be a priority for senior leaders, as those organisations that take them seriously, tend to be leaders in their field, tend to maintain their leadership position longer and are quicker to bounce back when competitors leap frog.

There are many blocks that prevent expression of problems and hinder idea generation. Some solutions include:

a) An environment of psychological safety and freedom 'accepting an individual as unconditioned worth; recognising that the individual is capable of producing but that their value is not based on producing; understanding empathetically; understanding the individual from their point of feeling and view (Vernon, 1970).

b) Tolerance of failure 'Accepting that many ideas will fail before one worthwhile one will surface and reach commercialisation; recognising that there are benefits to failure, such as competency expansion 'Blade Runner was initially a commercial failure yet Ridley Scott went on to make some very successful movies. The Economist (2003) states that 3000 bright ideas result in 100 worthwhile projects, which are winnowed down to four development programmes. And four such development programmes are required to stand any chance of getting one winner.

Though senior leaders pay lip service to the above, the reality is often much different. Below are some easy and simple tests to gauge how well your organisation is performing in practice.

a) Employee interviews. Are interviewees expected to conform to the prevalent norm of not contradicting the interviewer? If they do so, are they less likely to be selected? Interviewees who throw up many ideas and challenge existing methodologies at this stage are more likely to be expressive when they find problems in an organisation and more likely to bring them to the attention of decision makers. They are also more likely to persuade others to do the same. Thought leaders are good drivers of change and prevent complacency 'though as a result it is not unusual to find that they cause friction with senior leaders who for some reason or other may be resistant to change. Remember, today's thought leaders can easily become tomorrow's established bureaucracy.

b) Personality conflicts are quite normal within organisations. Some theories argue that all interactions on some level are conflict based. But are junior people penalised when they conflict with senior people? Even if the senior person is in the wrong, do they get their way for the sake of preserving the existing order, structure and processes? Is the junior person made to feel that his or her behaviour needs to be monitored under threat of some sort of negative result or punishment? This is i) contradictory to an environment of psychological safety and freedom and results in suppression, not expression, of problem identification and idea generation and ii) a strong indicator that the culture is moving in the wrong direction.
c) Are senior leaders confident enough to leave themselves open to evaluation from all others in an organisation? Status deference has many negatives including i) higher status individuals tend to dominate the session and reduce the participation of others, ii) people allow higher status individuals to do all the idea generation, iii) people place higher value on ideas produced by higher status individuals and iv) people have a greater tendency to allow higher status individuals to get away with bad ideas.
This topic is covered in depth in the MBA dissertation on Managing Creativity & Innovation, which can be purchased (along with a Creativity and Innovation DIY Audit, Good Idea Generator Software and Power Point Presentation) from You can also receive a regular, free newsletter by entering your email address at this site.

About the Author: Kal Bishop, MBA is a management consultant based in London, UK. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached on

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