A lot of companies who are trying to innovate start out by recruiting “talent” – those people who have natural abilities in creativity
But what happens to those companies who can’t afford compete for “talent”? Or who are committed to using their existing workforce? How can they build the culture of innovation necessary to survive in an uncertain future?
Don’t despair! There’s a lot of evidence emerging that people can learn to be more innovative and creative.
A 1973 study of 117 pairs of identical and fraternal twins (Creative Ability in Identical and Fraternal Twins, Marcus Reznikoff, George Domina, Carolyn Bridges, Merton Honeyman, 1973) found that only 30 % of our creative ability is attributable to genes. In comparison, they found that 85% of intellectual abilities are genetic. According to the consultancy, Innovators DNA, 6 other studies have confirmed these findings. This means there is huge scope for learning creativity and innovation. Think about that, over two-thirds of our innovation skills come from learning!
It also seems that we develop our creativity in earliest years but it is a sad fact that most while most of us have a lot of creative ability at age 5 over time, we lose it.
In an often-quoted study recounted in a recent TEDx talk, noted creativity researcher George Land tells of being asked by NASA back in the 1960s to develop a way to assess the creativity of its engineers. He did and it worked, so he decided to try it on some children. He used the same assessment he developed for NASA to test the imaginative capabilities of children ages 3-5, who were enrolled in the early Head Start program.
His astounding finding was that 98% of those children scored as creative geniuses, compared to just 2% of adults. He tested the same kids again at five year intervals and found a dramatic drop in that creativity, down to only about a third of them scoring that high by age 10, and down to just 12% by age 15. Land observed that we don’t learn to be creative; on the contrary, we start out creative and learn to be uncreative!
It seems that we not only have to learn to be creative and also unlearn being “uncreative”. So the first point is that you need to recognise and build on the creative potential that already exists.
But it’s not all about being creative.
The other interesting insight into organisations that innovate is that while creative skills are important, they are not the only skills that are needed. Increasingly we’re discovering that there are other attributes that are essential. Ideas are mostly not one thing, they are a collection of strands woven together. So to come up with an innovation (that is, an idea that works) , you normally need to be able to connect and collaborate with others who complete your ideas. You also need to be able to sell it, trial it, prototype it, plan for it and so on. Creative types are not always able to do all those things.
You need people who have the interpersonal skills to work with others to strengthen and progress good ideas.
That’s why Hargraves Institute is focusing not only on the innovators and the leaders, but also on this third valuable function in the innovation process. We call them ‘Catalysts’. With the right systems and practices, a network of Catalysts can drive your innovation, engage employees at all levels and help implement quality, well thought through ideas.
So if you’re thinking about how to kick start your innovation process without hiring a team of specialist innovators, consider these questions:
- How can I develop the natural creative ability of my staff?
- What can leaders do to promote innovation?
- How can I harness the skills of natural catalysts to make it all work?
To find out more about how we can help you collaborate with peers outside your industry/network, contact us.