During 2015, while working on my book „The Leadership Spark” on business innovation, I discussed with many managers and scholars involved in this topic, from all around the world, I read a shelf of book on it and thought a lot in the meantime; I did not find an all-encompassing theory summing up everything that humans know about it. What I have also found is that there are 4 major questions a leader in innovation (mainly CINOs) has to ask himself before heading towards the implementation of a dedicated program. These 4 questions are rarely addressed fully.
The first question is: do I have the people fitted to run the implementation of an innovation program within my company?
In the multitude of theories on innovation and creativity there are some dedicated to answering exactly this theme: the role of individual creativity in business. Dogma on the subject says that you can not have a successful innovation process or program unless you have the dedicated people. Dedicated means: aligned to the company’s mission, fanatically involved in supporting it and true believers in their own creative potential. How do you detect them in your company?
The second most important question would be: is the existing company culture one favorable to emergent innovation?
In other words, is the vibe of the company one containing enough collective creative potential. In general, a culture is creative there where knowledge is existent in great amount within the company and where it freely flows around. What most commonly happens is that corporate cultures are directed towards profit or cost-cutting. What is wrong here is that these kind of cultures immersed in a preoccupation for money do not sparkle creativity or innovation. It is the same with each great inventor, artist or creative movement; the moment monetization rises in the horizon, creativity disappears. The paths towards profits and/ or economies are limited as long as people see this end point. Immediately they are shown a greater-than-just-money-purpose, the paths are becoming numerous and infinitely fertile. The purpose I am talking about here has to be significant for them, not (only) for the shareholders; it has to do with theirs or others lives improvement. When this kind of a mission or vision is declared and supported all along, they reach towards infinite ways of manifesting creativity at individual and community level. This kind of a mission has to do with the masculine energy of things (in this case with the forceful dedication to accomplish it) and with the feminine energy of such a proposition (in this case with its aiming at others, not self).
The third question is: does the company have the necessary tools at the level of each individual in the company with which he is able to manifest his creativity?
Even if there is a bunch of well fitted people (in the sense of a positive answer to the first question) to deal with creativity, they might lack the proper instruments, techniques or tools. In the sense that one is the belief that “I am creative” and another is the creative behaviour. Creative thinking is of a special type, presupposing different than normal cognitive processes. And these special ways of thinking are not common, but to be modeled and copied from the greatest inventors, artists and other creative geniuses. On the other hand, creative thinking produces creative behaviour. In spite of the fact that such different ways of thinking and behaving are already listed in specialty books, they are rarely used in strategic planning meetings or in boardrooms nowadays.
The last question: is the organization of the processes within my company proper to the emergence of innovation?
A bureaucratic or slow decision process applied to employees ideas (1), the political filters consciously or unconsciously applied by middle-managers to their subordinates ideas (2) or/ and the monetary incentives for great ideas hinder creativity and innovation. I think the hardest block is in the companies where middle-management‘s role in implementing innovation is not acknowledged. I also get in touch with managers speaking to me of norming the creative output of the employees, as if creativity is something easy to be measured. There are companies where innovation is as natural as breathing.
Concluding, innovation is an emergent by-product of a collective thinking where dedicated people trust their inner creativity and have the proper tools to express it within a fertile organizational setting. Innovation can not be pushed, pulled, stirred or commanded. It naturally appears as in nature: when some good seeds are thrown over a fertile soil. Meaning – when the leaders of an organisation ensure positive answers to the 4 above discussed questions. Thinking business innovation this aggregate way is called integral thinking of innovation. Ken Wilber is the contemporary philosopher who facilitated this great understanding of life, through its four meanings. Such thinking is already applied in hundreds of places on this planet, at the level of corporates, governments, health institutions, educational systems.
You may detect the same conclusions and several other details for a better understanding through studying the following figure where I merged Wilber’s AQAL system to business innovation.
|INDIVIDUAL||UpperLeft Quadrant – Consciousness, „What I Experience”
In general: Subjective reality, states of mind, psychological development, mental models, emotions, will
In business creativity: “imagination”, creativity beliefs, creative mental abilities, will to creatively solve problems, higher motivation and will
|UpperRight Quadrant – Behavior, „What others see that I Do”
In general: Objective reality, brain, visible biological features, activation of bodily systems
In business creativity: “innovation”, senses directed to creative input, neurobiology and genes of creative people, creative behaviors, creativity techniques, instruments to measure creativity
|LowerLeft Quadrant – Culture, „What WE Experience”
In general:Inter-subjective reality, shared values, culture and worldview, webs of culture, communication, relationships, norms, customs
In business creativity: pollination of ideas, creative cultures, creative collective emergence
|LowerRight Quadrant – Systems, „What others see that WE Do”
In general: Inter-objective reality, systems, environments, societal structures, economical systems, political orders
In business creativity: business framework to sparkle creativity, systems of idea generation, procedures for innovation implementation