Reigniting the Spark of Creativity in a Global Economy
Subject matter: Innovation management
Author: Judy Estrin
Publisher: McGraw-Hill, published August 2008, ISBN: 9780071499873
“Fundamental or scientific innovations are not only important to companies and the economy. They affect everyone’s life” , writes innovation thinker and entrepreneur Judy Estrin in her book. She creates a strong case for innovation building a strong economic future for everyone.
Judy Estrin looks at the situation in America and describes underlying causes for the decline of the American lead in research and development of technologies. This deterioration of American industrial strength can be traced back to a failure in continuing a tradition of creative thinking and innovation in every aspect of American life. The spirit of new discovery not only in industry and academia has steeply declined over the past decade or so. Instead of looking for long term answers to key challenges in industry and technology, the focus has changed, driven by the now collapsed “Wall Street Culture”, to results that only require a short time horizon.
As a former CTO of Cisco Systems, the author had deep insights to the modern corporate structure. She recognizes how Wall Street and shareholder pressure have shifted emphasis on long term innovative product development, to short term quarterly reports. The result of this short sighted thinking has been a loss of a generation of scientific research and development. The loser in the sheer neglect of longer term scientific research is the entire economy and society.
The power of the book is the approach taken by Judy Estrin. After analyzing the situation she offers concrete and practical solutions. Reading the book it becomes very clear that she understands the process for creativity and innovative discovery as a messy business and difficult to quantify. She does not deny that fact that false trails and failures are part of a successful innovative process. Consequently, executives trying to use standard metrics for their innovation portfolio will often be disappointed in the results delivered by their research team. Instead of further funding they are more often than not steered into immediate marketing solutions. In the end, the opportunities for real innovation are often lost.
Although the book is written form an American perspective I am sure it offers a lot of food for thought to any R&D leader in any company in the current economical situation.
3 Steps to boost creativity in yourself and in your organisation
When you know what you want, the whole Universe conspires to help you achieve it
Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
When I run innovation workshops I usually start off the day with an ice-breaker in which the participants identify the factors that will maximise creative output for a team. What surprises them is that they rate the psychological factors – such as emotional state, team spirit, and positive attitude, over the usual factors of having lots of ideas, not evaluating too early, or having great insights. They instinctively recognise that the conditions for optimum creativity must lie inside, before you can express them outside.
So creativity starts in your mind. Whilst this is nice to know, how can you start the creative juices flowing? Here are three straightforward steps which can help you to boost your creativity:
Step 1: Be crystal clear what your desired outcome is.
The first step is to set clear outcomes. This is another often repeated starting point but it is surprising how frequently it isn’t followed. It is important to use the word ‘outcome’ because it defines what you literally want to ‘come out’ when your objective has been achieved. By specifying what you want to come out, you immediately start to think about the physical characteristics; what it will look like, feel like, and what people will say or do as a result. It becomes almost tangible. To illustrate this, imagine biting into a sharp tasting lemon. Does the saliva start to flow? But where’s the lemon? By making the outcome real, you send a clear instruction to your unconscious mind about exactly what you want. You have primed your mind for success.
Step 2: Switch on your imagination
To support your unconscious mind, you can also start to behave and think as if you are already creative. It doesn’t mean pretending or bluffing your way (you’ll soon get found out if you do that); it means taking on the behaviours that you think or know are pre-requisites. This works because before you do anything – anything at all – you have to imagine doing it first. Even opening a door requires you to imagine it opening; and the same is true for creativity – you have to imagine being able to do it first. As Einstein said, imagination is more important than knowledge.
Step 3: Give your conscious mind a break
Many scientists, poets, and mathematicians have reported instances where they have been deeply engaged in a problem, and, being unable to solve it, have taken a break. Mentally distracted by new surroundings, the solution has inexplicably surfaced. This is because the unconscious mind never stops working and looking for connections; and because you know what you want, your mind will alert you to those connections that are relevant. Your mind sifts through millions of possible connections and potential solutions – all whilst you do something else – even sleep. This is the meaning of the quotation at the start of the article – when you know what you want, the whole universe conspires to help you. Solutions appear; connections are made; ideas emerge.
With these three steps you will be able to start a process of enhancing your own and others’ creativity. But please remember that these are just the first steps in the journey, not the destination. You have to do the rest yourself through the hard work of evaluating the solutions that your mind has provided.
Have fun, be creative, and experiment!
If you want to get in touch with Ian Walton send him an e-mail to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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