A case for Organizational Creativity
A Releasing Your Unlimited Creativity discussion topic
Copyright 2008 by K. Ferlic, All Rights Reserved
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There are many books, teachers, consultants and the like that talk about how to manage an organizations. Many individuals have careers built on advising individuals as to how to go about creating effective organizations.. However, everyone is not successful or at least not as successful as they like. If they were, we wouldn’t need all the book and teachers telling us how to do it. There would be no demand and no market for such individuals or information. So the question is, "Why are some organizations so capable of obtaining the desired performance where as other organizations are not successful especially when both groups use the same techniques and/or follow the same advisors?"
Depending on how we talk to there are a variety of answers given as to the reason for this. Some will say the answer depends on the mission and function of the organization and how effectively chosen organizational methods align with the stated mission and goal. Some will say the answer is related to the motivation of the individuals as to why they are in the organizational and whether or not the individual are stimulate and catalyzed to act by the work environment created by the organization. Some will say that simply every organization is different as are each of the member of the organization and we need to account for the uniqueness. The impact of the uniqueness of the organization and each of its members can be quite profound relative to what one desires to create. The question is not, "What approach should be used?" but rather, "What is the optimum approach for any particular organization or group of individuals for what is successful will change from group to group?"
The answer lies in the fact that managing and transforming an organization is like living life. Both are a creative endeavor. We cannot blindly apply the lessons learned of the past and of others to our situation unless we understand the embedded assumptions about the problem we face and the solution we are attempting to apply. Organization Creativity looks to understand these assumptions. We need to understand and learn how what we think about believe about what we are facing is blinding us to where the root issue lies that keeps us from obtaining the solution we seek.
The follow brief discussion provide some areas where becoming more creative and understanding Organizational Creativity can be of assistance.
Our creative spirit and incident and accident prevention
The exploration of creativity in the workplace revealed their was what can best be described as a creative spirit within each of us. This creative spirit is the source of our energy and passion to act in life to do anything which we attempt to do. It is called a creative spirit for it has been observed that if this creative spirit does not have its creative needs met consciously, it will meet them nonconsciously including creating accident, illness, disease and the like. So it is essential that the needs of this creative spirit are met to one degree or another.
Relative to the workplace, it has been observed is there are some organizational structures and approaches literally put the individual’s creative passion which arises from our creative spirit asleep. In doing so, the individuals become less attentive to details, bored, frustrated and the like. The more we lose passion for what we do, the more likely errors will be made resulting in accidents or problems. Yet, there are other structures and management styles allow for individual to be aware and awake. In these cases there are less accidents and errors but there is greater attention and maybe "down time" and interruptions to fix things which are not functioning correctly. The question is "What kind of organization is desired and what types and kinds of problems do we wish to face?" for our choice of organizational structure has a influence on what we experience in the workplace. (More on ..... looking for precursors to failure)
Becoming aware of embedded assumptions
The topic, "Creating Money and Wealth" provides a basic discussion on the difference between making money and creating money which addressed the essential type and kind of problem we face. Money is a way humanity has created to exchange creative life energy between members of a society. That is, we give our creative life energy and time to perform a task for another, We are given money in exchange for that time and energy. We then give that money to some other individual who performs a task for us. However we look at money we are automatically connected to the social collective view about money and what it means. Most importantly, we are tied to other the collective and the past to talk about money. So it is very difficult to talk about creating money because the concept of creating is pulling us out of the past and what mind thinks and believes where as the concept of money is pulling us into the past and what the collective thinks about money.
So too in many organizational transformation and creative endeavors attempted in an organization. The organization is created around an issue seen by mind that is based on a past experience. The whole concept of the organization is really tying us to the past and the past that gave rise to the organization. Yet any truly creative endeavor attempted by the organization is pulling us away from the past. If we are not aware of this fact, many of our attempts to change an organization will either provide only partial success or simply fail.
This does not mean we cannot engage in truly creative endeavors with an organization. Rather, we seemly need to understand the embedded assumptions about what we are facing and what we are attempting to do with the organization. We must ensure our assumption and valid and that what we are attempt to do address what is as opposed to what we think we are facing and perceived by erroneous assumptions.
Being creative is about having the ability to move into the unknown and/or face the unexpected. The future always has an element of uncertainty. One never really knows for certain what the next moment will bring. Organizational creativity is about an organization having the ability to respond to a changing, uncertain future. The more change that can be expected the greater the need for a creativity. However, the more creativity required the more the organization will move away from what it knows and the more fear and uncertain will arise in its members.
Creativity and creative individuals need a certain about of nurturing or otherwise it will to be available when it is needed. In particular there needs to be some individuals who are familiar with walking into the unknown and not become lost in the uncertainty of the future and giving into fear when faced with the sacrifice of creation and the chaos of creation.
One answer organizations have found is to understand and accepted that various groups or parts of an organization need to access creative energy to obtain creative ideas and creative solutions. Research and development groups, design groups, marketing and advertising groups, artistic groups and the like routinely seen a source of creativity. Each in their own way continually go back to the "creativity well," as one goes back to a well for creative waters, hoping to find an unlimited supply of creative ideas.
However, the need and role of creativity is often overlook in normal organization operations. Its need only becomes obvious when routine operations are disrupted. For example when an emergency situation arises and/or when there is elective or nonelective change creativity is suddenly called forth and even demanded. Most of these creative groups within existing organizations are focused on product lines development and/or product advances. Few such groups are focused on researching improved in house organizational performs. Rather, most organization look to outside "experts" to tell them how their unique organization should change.
Here lies an essential element of Organizational Creativity and the proverb, "Give an individual a fish and they eat for a day, teach an individual how to fish, and they eat for a life time." There is the need for individuals within the organization to understand the creative process and what is encountered in any truly creative endeavor. Those individuals are then the individuals who should be looking at the uniqueness of the organization and it individuals to determine how the organization should transform itself. The recommendation is for each organization to have a few visionary leaders in its employment to be able to do this. These visionary leaders are able to foresee and access what is needed when it is needed. (More on .... developing visionary leaders)
How we choose to believe determines what we face
The perspective an individuals has about whatever they face determines what they are capable of both seeing and doing in the situation they face. One who believes a solution is possible will see a situation and possibilities much different than one who thinks something is not possible. More importantly, even if a solution is ultimately impossible, the individual who believes the solution is possible will move a long way towards finding alternatives to whatever is faced. They may even be able to find a way that makes the original issue irrelevant.
In addition to how our perspective allows us to see or not see possibilities, the words we speak also bias how we approach problems. For example, over the years society has come to talk about special needs individuals as opposed to retard or handicapped. There is a deep reason for such changes.
Whether we realize it or not, each of us are a creative living process continually recreating ourselves based on the experiences we have. Many recreate a past identity and reinforce existing patterns of beliefs. In reinforcing the past, we are forces to live with the past and the limitation the past have imposed on us. However, if we learn to hold our creativity sacred, we will come to see we can create a way of being that makes us tremendously adaptable. We can come to see we are not bound to the past and even in impossible situations, we can find ways to improve the situation to create something which better serves us and the others involved in the situation.
As a creative living process, we live with a feedback loop. What we experience - what we think, say, do, and feel - all feeds back into what we think and believe about Creation. Some experiences reinforce what we believe where as other experiences cause us to rethink and change what we think and believe. In realizing this process exists, we can consciously change our perspective by choosing to having experiences which reinforces or changes a particular way of believing and thinking. If we choose to hold our creativity sacred and look to ways to develop and expand our ability to be creative, we can develop a mind set that is extremely adaptable no matter what our starting point and beliefs may be. In fact, we can reach a point were the term mind set becomes a oxymoron for the limits and boundaries of our mind are so expansive we cannot talk about a set mind. What is interesting about such a mind set or rather such an expansive mind, is that we move to a true beginner's mind and the doorway to experience the infinity of our being. If we move through that doorway, the possibilities become endless for we no longer see Creation as we once did.
In any case, what our concern here is to become aware of the language we use, the words we speak, how we phrase what we say and how we look at anything which is given or told to us. There are ways of saying things which reinforce limiting beliefs or expansive believes. Similarly how we process anything we are told or what is given to us about any topic robs of our creative power or empowers us. We need to eat and digest anything given to us and told to us much the way we eat and digest food. We take what serves us and allows us to achieve what we desire to achieve and discard the rest.
One thing which does not serve developing a expansive mind for bringing creativity into an organization or facing organization change and organizational transformation is any cookbook mentality. Many organizational philosophies, management approaches and the like try and make organization design, organizational management and organizational dynamics appear as though we can follow a cookbook approach. We need to remember every organization and group of individuals are unique. There are lessons learned that can be used from any other organization or group of people no matter how different they appear to be and whether what they did seemed to be a success or failure. But we need to eat and digest those lessons learned. For example, one should be aware of the quantifying laws or rules for anything. To say thing such as seven rules, ten laws and the like tend to make one think and believe all they need to know and apply those seven rules and ten laws. Although we may find those seven rules or ten laws cover ninety or even ninety nine percent of what we face, we will find ourselves dealing with that percentage that does not fall into the seven rules or ten laws. One must always be open to the fact there is something else to consider. To say there are only seven rules or ten laws goes against the creative approach to life and organizational creativity. One must be open to the moment in every way.
Intellectual versus experiential knowing
Any activity does not work as theoretically envisioned. There is often a tremendous gap between and intellectual knowing of a concept and the experiential knowing which arises from its practical application. Where we think a problem lies is not always cause of what we face. Here again, we need to become very aware of the assumptions we are making about what we are facing. It is in our assumptions we find many, if not most, of our problems.
Organization Creativity looks to get at the root of the problem and realizes the mind which created the problem is not the mind which will solve the problem. Organization Creativity does not endorse any particular organization approach or solution. In fact, usually any organizational approach will work if consistently and uniformly applied across the organization. It is just some organization approaches are more effective than others for particular task. With this in mind, rather, than endorse an approach, Organizational Creativity provides a way to utilize the benefits gained in the lessons learned captured in any predetermined approach but overlays the uniqueness of the organization or group of individual to whatever approach is to be applied. The key to overlaying the uniqueness of the organization and any group of individuals is to understand the creative process encountered in any creative endeavor and the strengths and limits of the individual’s inherent creativity.
Probably the easiest way for an organization to have the ability to overlay uniqueness of the organization to any approach is to develop a group of core visionary leaders who understand have used the creative process and understand the types and kinds of problems faced in any creative endeavor.
Becoming a slave to one’s own creation
One of the most interesting phenomenon about organizations is that they are built to serve an individual or individuals. They are created by people for people. Yet, individuals in the organization become a slave to the organization. The organization takes on a perspective and personality that its member feel they are unable to change. In essence humans create a system and that system then robs us our of creative power.
Often this is by design and there is an implicit desire to castrate the inner masculine and rob the individual of their creativity. In doing so, the individuals in the organization become docile and they do not resist what the organization ask of them. However, when it comes to organizational change and transformation, the individual have been robbed of exactly what is needed to allow for smooth transitions.
Here lies a key to creating a responsive organization. It is to effectively harness the creative spirit within the individual so as to perform the required task and functions yet hold the individuals’ creative spirit sacred such that it is a viable and powerful force available when called upon to perform creatively. In a responsive organization usually morale and motivation are not issues for the individuals have and internal motivation to achieve what is desired.
The issue of incentives
All organization want good performance to meet organizational goals. To help achieve this end, most organizations have some type and kind of incentive program to reward the performance meeting organizational objectives. However, it needs to be understood, incentives do not ultimately produce the long term results desires. In fact, some incentives are self defeating in two ways. One is they focus on the wrong issue and the other is they focus the attention and awareness of personnel in the wrong direction.
Good organization performance is seen as meeting organizational objectives in a relatively cost effective and efficient manner. The idea behind incentives is to encourage and motivate organizational members to meet those objectives. However, the energy to do anything comes from the heart and our passion and not the mind. The mind can channel the energy of the heart but it is nevertheless the heart which supplies the energy to act. Most incentive programs appeal to the mind and not the heart.
When individuals act from the heart there is no need for incentives. There is an internal passion to act regardless of what the external world supplies in this regard incentives are focused on the wrong issue. Rather than causing the heart to become passionate about the work being done, they focus on what the mind thinks. This in turn leads to the second issue, what mind thinks.
Most incentives are designed to appeal to the mind and what it wants. The goal is to focus the individual on achieve the organizational mission. Incentives, by their very nature, focus the individual into the desire of the mind. Often individuals become more worried about their performance appraisal, satisfying their supervisor at any cost and doing what is expected to be the recipient of the incentive. That is, the incentives and getting the incentive becomes an end in itself. How serious this problem is depends on the organization and the incentives that are used.
Any creative endeavor looks to access the passion which lies in the heart and step beyond mind. Organizational Creativity looks to move an organization to act from the heart of each individual as opposed to the incentives of the mind. That is, the passion of the individuals is accessed to meet the mission and objectives of the organization..
An overall organization problem
One of overall organization problem encountered is that the typical organizational approach and operations often mask the details that go into any process. As a result, many individual do not see how their role is needed for the functioning of the organization nor do they see how making changed in what they do affects the whole.
The intent of any organization is to iron out the perturbations, discontinuities and other disruptive influences offered by any collection of individuals and create a smooth operation. Construction and startup of any organization or structure is where many of the details become masked. In the same way exterior construction of a building or wall masks the interior, the same is true for any organization system. The assumptions and issues addressed in the design and construction are often not seen nor recognized in the final operation. In this regard, often changes that are attempted do not recognize the underlying and supporting structure.
Design has the luxury of working with a give form or structure before it become solidified. At the design level, it is relatively easy to change things. Steady state has the luxury of working with a existing established form after many of the details of an operation as to how things really work have been addressed. It is in the construction and start up phase where we are forced to work where the details become solidified into a smooth functioning structure. Often it may take an enormous effort to get that desired smoothness and work out the "bugs of the system. Here again, as discussed above, what intellectually looks good may experientially encounter tremendous problems.
Yet construction and startup, difficult as they may be, has the luxury of working to a known design and knowing where we are going. It is in construction and startup where the real details of what make the organization run gets buried in the smoothness of the operation that is created. Those details then remain buried with the normal functioning of the organization. For example, the are many manager who think they are very effective. Yet, if one looks carefully, they are successful because they have a well functioning organization that can often run on automatic. Many individuals have come before them and worked to get the system functional. Even many of the "big" decision that seem to take so much effort and analysis are often preordained by the momentum, nature and personality of the organization.
Unexpected change, nonelective change and emergency type situation cause one to step outside the design and normal operation to enter the unknown. It is here creativity become extremely important. However, creativity is something that must be nurtured. If it is not nurtured through the steady state conditions when it is not called upon it will not be available when needed. Creativity needs to be fostered long before it is needed.
Many organizations hire very competent individuals into an existing system that allows for the individuals’ competency to be lost over time. Retraining, requalification, certifications, are all some of the techniques organization have used to try and ensure a certain level of performance is maintained. However, creativity does not lend itself to retaining, requalifications, certifications and the like. It is something that must be practiced in real time for real issues. Creativity must be continually nurtured and the reasons for its lost needs to be understood if it is to be nurtured. It is here a different approach is needed.
Creativity in organizations and creating collectively often is blind to the fact that they are only the produce of the how the individual creativity of its of its member comes together. Additionally, being an organization, the details of what is required to foster the creativity of the individual is lost. Many organizational approaches to creativity often masks many of the aspects that go into creativity and the creative process such as the sacrifice of creation and chaos of creation inherent in any creative endeavor. They tend to neglect the fear or uncertainty that it causes to rise within the individuals. Many talk about change management dealing with fear but not necessary addressing from where the fear arises to get at its source..
The lessons learned from the exploration of creativity in the workplace and the deeper exploration of our individual inherent creativity captured in Organizational Creativity provides some ways as how to go about bring a creative energy into an existing organization to address these issue. It also provides a way to create the visionary leaders within an organization necessary to guide and organizational transformation.