Australia is a highly successful and prosperous nation. However, we have ridden on our luck, particularly by relying heavily on our natural resources to get us through. In the 21st century being lucky isn’t enough; our future success will depend on us nurturing talent and inventiveness. In short, it will depend on our creativity.
Two prominent futurists, Ryan Matthews and Watts Wacker, recently described the challenge in unlocking creativity; “Never has the need for creativity been so compelling and never has genuine creativity been in such short supply. We have a broadband culture but not the content to fill it.”
What is the true state of innovation and creativity Australia?
- According to McKinsey research we are not as innovative, compared to other countries, as we think we are.
- We tend to think of artists and scientists as the “creative ones” but many artists and scientists struggle to make a living
- Many corporate leaders agree that developing a culture of innovation is critical yet acknowledge that they do not allow their people to think.
- Innovation is siloed into advanced manufacturing and biotechnology/medical research
- Many of our talented entrepreneurs end up commercialising their innovations outside Australia
Creativity: the most important leadership quality
Creativity is now regarded as the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking. This is according to IBM’s CEO Global Study which is the largest known sample of one-on-one interviews with chief executives. Over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries were polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today’s world.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, creativity and innovation are a prerequisite for success, and possibly even survival. It is why creativity and innovation are moving to the top of the agenda for organizations around the world. It is no coincidence that some of our most successful companies have appointed heads of creativity and innovation.
Creativity and innovation are a core competency for leaders and managers. We need to teach people how to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, to ask important questions and to generate solutions. Generating new ideas to tackle old problems and the ability to create new products, processes or services for a changing market give companies a competitive edge. Creativity is a crucial part of the innovation equation.
The right-brain holds the key
Many neuroscientists and futurists believe that organizations need to place greater emphasis on right-brain functions such as artistic flair, big picture thinking and the ability to conceptualise.
At Creativity Australia and Creative Universe we believe that creativity is the strategic tool of the 21st century. It offers the answers to many of the big issues we face in unprecedented time and can help us unlock our full potential and connect with others.
That can develop stronger communication and better problem solving skills which fosters sustainable levels of motivation and well-being at a personal, and organizational, level. This in turn leads to higher engagement and better innovation, and an enhanced ability to make a contribution to our society.
If you enter a kindergarten you will encounter some of the most creative thinking: finger paintings with pink and green people and blue dogs and polka-dot skies, imaginative stories of fairies and magical, far-away places. Young children are naturally creative. They must create ways to learn and construct a world view from a collection of initially disconnected events, colours, movements and sounds.
So what happens between the open, effortless experimentation of our childhood and the blocks in creative thinking experienced by many adults?
In many companies there is no clear pathway for developing personal creativity and nurturing, developing and celebrating ideas. In fact, often those with the ideas are ignored or stifled, so that eventually their voices and ideas fall silent. They inevitable disengage themselves from the organisation, if not physically, then almost certainly intellectually.
One of the challenges businesses face today is overcoming the barriers to stimulating creativity and innovation. We need to create opportunities for individuals and communities to connect with one another in new and meaningful ways, and to share and develop new ideas.
The barriers are ever present. We live in a world where computers, the internet, image and celebrities take us further away from meaningfully connections with other people. We interact with boxes and screens instead of with one another. We are in danger of becoming a society where alienation, disengagement and self-centeredness are entrenched. We are in danger of building a world where human beings fail to capitalise on relationships that are generative and creative.
Workplaces of the future
One way of changing this is to teach people how to think and act differently. Workplaces of the future need to develop a culture of innovation that offers employees a voice.
Engaging in creative leadership programs that take people outside their comfort zones whilst maintaining a safe environment, to play and be one’s creative self is critical. These programs can lead to improved employee wellbeing, engagement and self awareness. They can improve leadership skills and productivity and help build the ability to innovate and grow successful, sustainable businesses.
In the face of competitive and economic pressures creativity and innovation are the keys to success. Creativity is the key to our nation’s and our world’s future. It is time that we realise that everyone is creative. We need to start investing in our human creative capital to solve our wicked problems and re-think the future. Companies that fail to innovate now will not be around in 5 to 10 years. It’s worth the risk – get creative!