This is Part II of a two-part interview series with Creativity Today co-authors, Ramon Vullings and Godelieve Spaas.
Ramon is a creativity guru and a skilled facilitator of innovation.
Godelieve is an expert on organizational change, and a master at creating organizational models.
If you missed Part I, be sure to check out how Jeff De Cagna of Principled Innovation kicked things off.
Q: Creativity Today breaks the creative process down into three phases. What are the three phases? And what would the cliff notes summary of the book say about each of the phases?
Ramon: Creativity Today actually focuses on 4 steps:
1. Situation – What is the real question? This takes up a lot of time, after analyzing this, you’ll know what it’s really about
2. Divergence – Generate ideas and takes different perspectives, really ‘widen’ your view
3. Convergence – Select ideas, without choosing for the old perspectives. And enrich the selected ideas, so they become concepts
4. Action! – An idea/concept without action is nothing… here it takes leadership to start implementation.
Q: With your experience in coaching groups of people through the phases of the creative process, what part of the process do you typically find to be the hardest part for groups to achieve? Why?
Ramon: 1. Situation – The hardest part for many groups is to agree on the actual question/situation. Why are we here for? People have such different views on the ‘same’ situation. When you get through the discussion a lot of internal ‘miscommunication’ is cleared up and there is a better mutual understanding.
2. Action – Great thinking, now the doing starts. Getting people into action ‘today’ is very hard, it’s a presuppositions that there are moments to think and other moments to act. Yet they actually need to go together.
Q: Why should we pay extra attention to naive ideas?
Naive ideas show an ideal world, it’s best to come as close as possible.
Q: What is a nearling and why is it so important?
Ramon: A nearling is a positive word for something new that you did with the right intentions, which has not (yet) led to the right result. A nearling sits right between 0 (= inactivity) and 1 (=success). you need to try and test many things before you finally have learned how to reach success, however you define success. We (the Western world) are very binary, it’s 1 or 0, it’s success or failure. And everything which is not success is a failure. While actually only 0 (inactivity) is failure, this being in an innovative context as 0 in a Zen context is success. The nearling sits right between the 0 and the 1. You’ve take an initiative which has not (yet) to the desired result, if you learn from your nearling and share them, you’ll see they offer just as much value as ‘best practices’. You need nearlings to take you from ‘bets practices’ to ‘next practices’.
Q: In a majority of the case studies presented, there was often a bottom up approach to solving the stated problems, by involving groups of people, such as front-line workers, that might not normally be involved in decision making processes. Does this indicate a flaw in many organizational hierarchies? If so what can be done to correct this? Should some organizations be restructured so that ideas can grow and ripen within?
Ramon: The basic here is the creative attitude, be open and listen, while postponing your judgment. People ‘on the floor’ know what’s happening and can provide real insights. It’s an organizational value which is underestimated in many organizations. For creativity (around 2% of the time) it’s really needed to involve a large diverse group, the rest of the time (98%) it’s ‘processing’.
Godelieve: There will certainly be a flaw, if not a typhoon, in organizational hierarchies. And if we don’t make room for it, the management will end up with empty hands. There are several reasons for that. Until now it was OK to ask people to bring only part of themselves to work. But more and more they want to feel whole in their work. So to bring in passion, knowledge, skills and responsibility, and to receive a feeling of meaningfulness and fulfilment.
Working bottom up is only the beginning. It is a start to turn the organizational pyramid up side down. The former top of the pyramid will in the future be the facilitator for the employees who are capable and responsible for their work, within the global direction and borders that the directors set. Organizations really need all the skills, and knowledge employees have to give. They need their creation power, their passion, and every single scope on any issue they can get, to become a flexible and continuous innovating and creating company.
Q: Productivity has become a buzzword in recent years as people are try to do more in less time. Is there a proper balance between focusing on productivity (the repetition and logical organization of our lives) and getting out of our routines to utilize creativity as a strength?
Ramon: By being really creative one can win time, same as with productivity. Yet many people let themselves be seduced by all new opportunities these concepts offer. Being more productive offers more time to do more. It’s a Catch-22, you need to break out of the circle, this is where creativity can help.
Godelieve: Exploration and exploitation are up till now two different things in an organizations. Many books and articles are written on this topic. And they will all tell you that exploration and exploitation do bite each other because their dynamics are totally different.
It is the challenge to connect those two. For two reasons: because the exploitation process will become more and more dynamic, for example to realize mass customization. And the second reason is that if we don t combine the two, the exploration process will be the one that gets no attention. And it is that process that creates the future. It is my true conviction that by separating the two we alienate the future from the existing companies. And it is worth some thinking through if that is what we want.
More with Ramon and Godelieve:
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