Creativity in every workplace. It’s not just a dream
Creating an agile country requires far more than loosening up red tape and allowing greater risk taking by entrepreneurs and investors. Whilst these are useful measures for those prepared to invest in new ventures, they miss the most important factor altogether. Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull should be congratulated for moving in this direction, but the initiative will fail if our attention remains primarily focused on investment and not leadership. Investing in the same practices we have always followed is a recipe for failure.
This country and every business within it already has imaginative and creative people who are ready, willing and able to contribute to innovation, but in the main they don’t. The reason for this is not hard to understand, but finding business leaders who are prepared to accept this is so, and implement the changes necessary, is rare indeed. We already have leaders with imagination and drive, we also have an abundance of employees who have what it takes to contribute to an exciting and creative work culture.
All human beings are born with the ability to be creative, they just need the right environment to allow this to flourish. What crushes innovation and creativity in the workplace, is a leadership culture which treats ideas which don’t work out, as failures, and either micro manages or punishes the employees who come up with them. Bosses may also believe they are the only ones capable of coming up with answers and not be receptive to ideas from others within their workforce. Many of these bosses believe it is a sign of weakness or inadequacy if they use employees ideas.
Creativity and innovation reside in all of us, but the people who know best how to do things better in the workplace are those who do them every day. If employees remain trapped in workplace cultures which actively discourage new ideas and innovation, they are unlikely to put forward their creative ideas.
It is not hard to create a workplace where employees are excited to come to work and new ideas are constantly generated. Essentially those who are in leadership must cease their bossing and start leading. This is a paradigm shift which for many is a bridge too far. Many are so fearful of failure and so wedded to controlling that they can’t begin to envisage a workplace where employees work with them rather than for them.
It’s not about creating a laissez-faire environment, which is often seen as the only alternative for those who want to create a different workplace. Laissez-faire is a recipe for disaster because it leads to lack of leadership, direction and evaluation of work practices. It is essential that we find a middle road between using bossing and laissez-faire. Fortunately just such an approach exists and great leaders have always known about it. True leadership is about developing a workplace culture where high quality outcomes are the norm and creativity and innovation are naturally present, leading to genuine continual improvement.
The traditional approach used by management is to set up quality benchmarks based on what their industry is doing. This seems sound and can lead to consistent outcomes, which is okay if consistency is all we are after. The problem with this approach is that nobody is asked to perform above and beyond these bench marks, to find better ways to work, leading to new and innovative approaches. Mediocrity becomes the norm as all they do is match what others are doing. This is safe, but far from innovative and is certainly not agile.
Imagine a workplace where workers are encouraged and supported to do the best they can, not merely achieve benchmarks mirroring what others are doing, but to exceed them. Imagine they are encouraged to find and share better ways to do the work they know so well and are recognized and celebrated when they do. Not every idea they put forward will work, but the only way to find the gold in new ideas is to pan through the gravel until you see the flash of brilliance. It may take a lot of panning to get to gold, but recognition and encouragement of these ideas until we expose valuable nuggets is the only way to ensure that new gold keeps turning up.
It isn’t too late to change, even for those who have been bossing their whole lives, but it requires a preparedness to take a personal risk in changing the way managers have operated for so long. If management are prepared to learn and implement a new leadership style, then profitability will increase at the same time as enjoyment of work increases and loyalty and connectedness to the workplace thrives. Once we learn how to stop bossing and start leading and begin to work with each other and value what we each bring to the table, anything is possible.
The rewards of this paradigm shift are great, for leaders, employees, shareholders, and eventually for our country as a whole. We would really become the clever country, innovative, agile and true world leaders.
Choice Practice Institute
Riviera Counselling Service