At the beginning of 2019, LinkedIn published a study of hard and soft skills needed by employers. The top five soft skills include: creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management. As a former educator, I think the focus on standardized testing has led to placing less value on creativity and innovation in schools. We are seeing employees in the workplace that need help with their creative and critical thinking.
Think about the changes that have occurred in the last 10-20 years. We are experiencing an accelerating rate of change. The Internet and other technologies have led to an explosive growth of the amount of information available to all of us. As a result, we are able to more quickly access information than ever before and innovate faster. The following timeline from Peter Fisk demonstrates how the rate of change is accelerating.
Patents are not the only sign of innovation, but they indicate that we are experiencing an accelerating rate of change. This article shares how the number of patents have been granted since the U.S. Patent Office opened in 1790. According to the article, “In the first decade of the patent office, the U.S. granted 229 patents—the same amount today’s America grants every 7.2 hours.”
As the rate of change accelerates, organizations need to make sure they keep up with the competition and anticipate changes and opportunities. The word disruption is often used to describe innovations that result in new markets and ultimately change needs for leading products and services. There are plenty of examples: Amazon has disrupted traditional retailers, Netflix and video streaming nearly eliminated all traditional rental video stores, and Wikipedia wiped out the need for traditional published encyclopedias.
In this HBR article, Minor, Brook, and Bernoff discuss how innovation really works. They share that innovative organizations generate more ideas than less innovative organizations. In addition, they have systems in place to collect ideas, evaluate them, and implement them. This may seem common sense, but I find many organizations actually discourage innovation in the following ways:
- New ideas are judged too quickly or criticized harshly in a way that discourages people from being willing to share them.
- Not enough time is spent generating new ideas. The organization continues to operate as they have previously or make minor improvements to existing products and services.
- There are real or perceived consequences for taking risks. It feels safer and easier for employees to maintain the status quo than take risks.
- Ideas are generated and shared, but there is no follow up or system in place to implement them. When no change occurs, employees feel that coming up with new ideas is a waste of time.
- Teams are created with like-minded people that struggle to think outside the box. Most organizations are becoming more aware of the importance of diversity, especially related to age, gender, race, and ethnic background, but we don’t think enough about cognitive diversity. You can read more about cognitive diversity here.
A few questions to consider:
- How does your organize encourage employees to generate new ideas?
- How much time do you spend generating new ideas?
- Do you encourage risk taking and encourage employees to learn from mistakes?
- Do you have a system in place to collect ideas, evaluate them, and implement them?
- How have you intentionally developed cognitively diverse teams?
We offer a variety of workshops designed to help organizations generate more ideas in creative and collaborative settings. In addition, we use the Basadur Profile to help develop cognitively diverse teams. Some of our offerings are only two and four hours long and can be a very affordable way to increase creativity and develop more effective and collaborative teams. We also offer comprehensive creative problem solving facilitator training in the Basadur Simplexity Thinking process. This training develops the skills of participants to facilitate complex problem solving within your organization.
We can help you develop a system for collecting ideas, evaluating them, and implementing them. If you need an outside facilitator to guide you through a creative problem solving process, we can also provide that service.
We encourage you to spend some time reflecting on the questions above. Thank you for reading.
Tad Dickel, Ph.D.