I just finished reading a short article in Forbes about a creative specialist who consults with CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. I laughed at the absurdity of his latest book that tries to convince executives that successful businesses once started inside of the box, and then started to think outside of the box, and now must find a new box. The irony is especially rich as the latest surveys clarify the company of the future is one that operates without a box.
Creative experts pushed corporations out of their offices and placed them into large rooms where everyone’s paths would cross. The idea was more networking and a broader understanding of what everyone else manages. Unfortunately the amount of actual work being accomplished dropped significantly. Today’s surveys reveal that creatives need private areas to innovate.
The makers of Red Bull, one of the most creative out of the box thinkers in the food industry, conducted a survey that showed 60% of respondents needed a private space in order to explore their creativity. This does not diminish their ability to collaborate, as 30% of the respondents stated they collaborate in these private spaces.
The creative expert’s book went on to say that true ingenuity needs structure, analysis and brainstorming. This is in stark contrast to Ed Catmull’s book, “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.” Catmull, co-founder with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of Pixar Animation Studios, clarified the importance of the company’s communication structure not mirroring its organizational structure.
During his tenure as president of Pixar and Disney Animation, Catmull learned that the more structure and analysis you put on creatives, the more mediocre their work. But, “give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.” In other words, you can’t use logic to control creatives without killing their creativity.
Creatives must take risks to innovate and corporate executives must focus on risk mitigation. These contrary ideas must remain separate in order for innovation to catapult the company into the next decade and beyond.
This can be done by allowing creatives to talk to anyone they need to talk to within the company regardless of hierarchy. And, their managers must make it safe for creatives to take risks by fending off the executives that are risk adverse.
There is no longer a new box to find. There are no logical points of control that can manage people to be more creative. There is only the fun and freedom it takes to create within a team—never saying no, only saying yes, until the next best idea rises above the previous one.