A global study by IBM in 2010 of 5000 Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) across 60 countries and 33 industries found that creativity was selected as the “most crucial factor for future success”. Some of the key findings in the study highlight that “less than half of global CEOs believe their enterprises are adequately prepared to handle a highly volatile, increasingly complex business environment” and that “CEOs are confronted with massive shifts – new government regulations, changes in global economic power centers, accelerated industry transformation, growing volumes of data, rapidly evolving customer preferences – that, according to the study, can be overcome by instilling “creativity” throughout an organisation.”
For more details on the study see: Leading Through Connections: Insights from the IBM Global CEO Study
There was a really powerful article written recently in the The Independent by Dr Peter Gray on the importance of play in childhood development and why the UK government’s plans to make school days longer and holidays shorter are misguided. I think there are also lessons to be learned from this article for adults too – and why play is important in general throughout people’s lives to support well-being, let alone creativity.
“Give childhood back to children: it we want our offspring to have happy, productive and moral lives, we must allow more time for play, not less”
While Eric Schmidt was CEO at Google he highlighted the importance of the 70-20-10 model to inspire and nurture creativity and innovation amongst employees. The model emphasises the proportional of time employees should spend on different activities:
- 70% of time on the core business
- 20% of time on related projects
- 10% of time on unrelated projects
Eric Schmidt is also quoted as saying that “virtually everything new seems to come from the 20 percent of their time engineers here are expected to spend on side projects. They certainly don’t come out of the management team.”
This relates back to the earlier philosophy from 3M of allowing employees to spend 15% of the their time working on personal projects and the consequential invention of the post-it note.
While I was at Apple I was also given permission to work on projects not related to my main area of responsibility. I was formally part of the speech recognition group (focusing on Chinese and Japanese languages), but in my spare 15% of time (and in the evenings) I worked on using speech recognition technology ideas to solve handwriting recognition problems. Luckily I had a breakthrough with my work and consequently got transferred to lead the handwriting recognition team. This resulted in the work being launched as part of Apple’s Advanced Chinese Input Suite product in 1996 and the technology being licensed to several other companies.
I think this balance or ratio suggested by Eric Schmidt matches well with Dan Pink’s ideas of Drive and Intrinsic Motivation and Ken Robinson’s work on creativity. The ratio gives employees the permission and freedom to explore new ideas, but also to make sure they deliver on core areas of work as well.
The model proposed by Schmidt also goes some way to addressing the issue of The Innovator’s Dilemma highlighted by Clayton Christensen where his research found how new technologies and/or business models can cause great firms to fail.
As I mentioned in a previous article, Gordon Macrae from Incub and Gripple highlighted how their company’s strategy is to generate 25% of their turnover from products launched within the last three years. That strategy demands creativity inside the organization and avoids complacency creeping in. Again the company follows a similar model to the 70-20-10 model proposed by Schmidt.
For companies looking to encourage more creativity inside their own organisation, but fearful of the consequences, the 70-20-10 model is a good structure to follow. Even if just 10% of time is given to employees to pursue personal projects, the permission and freedom that gives to employees can be incredibly powerful. There is plenty of evidence to show the benefits of taking such an approach.
There is a nice article in the Science section of the BBC website giving ‘five ways to be more creative’. They are listed as:
- Do things differently
- Cut out distractions
- Work on mundane tasks
- Improvise and take risks
- Let your mind wander
The article gives a simple summary of some of the findings from the latest creativity research being undertaken around the world and why these factors have an effect on creativity.
PDR organised an excellent Open Innovation Conference last week at Cardiff Metropolitan University with some excellent speakers. Gordon Macrae from Incub & Gripple was particularly impressive with his talk about their strategy for generating 25% of their turnover from products launched within the last three years. A key focus was on providing value through fostering creativity, having a customer focus and incorporating design thinking and skills into their process. From a creativity perspective great thought had been paid to the work environment, intrinsic motivation of the staff and that all staff spent over 20 days a year engaging with customers (or potential customers). You can see some details on their philosophy and images of their work environment at http://www.incub.co.uk. You can also watch the interview with Gordon Macrae (below), where he talks about how they integrated creativity and design skills in their work.
TIME recently conducted a poll about creativity in the workplace, schools and government in the US.
Some of the key findings were that “81% of employees say creativity is important to them in the workplace”; 31% of the people polled believe that “American schools are not building creativity in students” and that 30% believed that the “American government is not doing enough to support creativity”; nearly a third of those polled said that their employers placed “little to no value on creativity”.