Completes assigned tasks. Meets deadlines…Daydreams effectively? Can companies really stimulate innovating thinking?
In the Cleveland Plain Dealer this Sunday, Mary Doria Russell writes about Imagine, a new book by Jonah Lehrer about how creativity really works.
Lehrer writes that creation isn’t a linear process. Innovators are ordinary people who encounter predictable walls. Rather than beating their heads against them, they quit. They find ways to go around them.
Everyone encounters barriers.
Successful innovators who’ve hit walls have something in common: They quit.
They didn’t quit their jobs. They gave up on unproductive lines of reasoning. “They really, truly gave up, often howling in frustration,” Lehrer says.
That’s when innovators “go forward by stepping sideways.” They quiet the linear, rule-constrained left side of the brain. Then, they unleash the conceptual, imaginative, right side. Your right brain soars with your best ideas when you’re just dozing or standing in the shower. The right brain makes unexpected connections. “Suddenly, you just know.”
Another Sunday paper described a painter who abandoned the conventional rules of the art game and built a $100 million a year business. His name is Thomas Kinkade, “painter of light.” Kinkade’s works hang in one out of 20 American homes.
The Sunday New York Times describes how Kinkade imagined a new path to success. He ignored the art critics, targeted consumers who rarely bought art and bypassed art gallery distribution channels. He chose instead to sell his sentimental, mass-produced paintings directly to consumers. He marketed his works through franchise galleries, cable television and online.
If you’re not advancing on the path you’re on, quit. Imagine another route to connecting with customers.
Successful innovation is about connecting with buyers. Kinkade’s lateral thinking coincided with reconnecting with his faith and others who shared it. He said, “People who put my paintings on their walls are putting their values on their walls: faith, family, home, a simpler way of living…they beckon you into this world that provides an alternative to your nightly news broadcast.”
Thomas Kinkade was one man who thought differently. What about when you’re one manager among a team of managers?
Getting managers to agree on a lateral route to innovation requires a special combination of skills.
After you have your eureka moment, how do you get others to follow along? Chances are that others have similar ideas. But, for reasons related to decision making processes or office politics, those ideas don’t get a fair hearing.
Others with different ideas probably feel similarly frustrated. This isn’t a deliberate or even conscious stifling of creative thought. It’s a natural outcome of diverse people working in one organization. There’s a lot of pressure on company leaders to keep everyone’s oars in the water, rowing in the same direction.
As a result, most leadership teams’ approaches to innovation could be described as “satisficing”. They suffice to satisfy key influencers within their organizations. Satisficing usually results in tweaks that customers don’t perceive or don’t care about.
Has satisficing happened in your organization?
Satisficing is a normally occurring barrier to company innovativeness. It has its own inertia. It usually needs to be acted upon by an outside force to change it.
In upcoming posts, I’ll talk about how leadership teams have acquired and applied three critical skills to overcome satisficing and get innovative in ways customers care about:
- inhabiting their customer’s frame of reference
- Identifying lateral innovation opportunities
- orchestrating the delivery of powerful customer experiences
What do you think? Could more companies stimulate innovative thinking? What’s holding some back?
Jason M. Sherman is president of Cleveland-based, Whyze Group. Whyze Group provides qualitative, customer- and user-experience research and innovation workshops to Global 2000 clients. The company has been recognized by the Baldrige National Quality Program, business associations and numerous business media as a leader in research and innovation.
Jason direct: (440) 785-0547.
Add comment April 13th, 2012