« links for 2005-07-31 | Main | The Experience Journal Podcast »

Managing for creativity

Harvard_1I think the ”Creative Class” is THE buzzword of 2005. Now Harvard is teaching that the only thing that matters is creativity.

I agree that we have to be creative if we want to discover new ways of working, new ways doing things, but just saying that doesn’t mean a thing.

I had a discussion with my wife few weeks ago about innovation and people’s creative ability. She works as a consultant and helps companies turning from very rigid to being more flexible. It’s a kind of change management exercise.

Her view is that every each of us is born creative in some sense. Humans has from the very beginning been forced to find new ways to survive. In modern times you could ague that the laziness of people has motivated them to find new methods to do what is necessary to do just to reduce time or cut some cost.

The problem that many companies are facing is not that the employee’s isn’t creative, they just forgot. So, it’s more about un-learn what you have learnt and then learn from the beginning – again, and the right way.

And all of a sudden the creative problem has turned into a company-culture thing.

I think my wife is right – but culture issues isn’t always easy to solve. My experience says me that it takes a lot of money, time and sometimes heavy shifts in management style.

Have you been through a cultural shift in your organisation, big one, small one? How was it? Did it help?

Permanent URL to this entry: http://www.cph127.com/cph127/2005/07/managing_for_cr.html


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Managing for creativity:



Don't Florida and Goodnight point out that "everyone is a creative"? And aren't the three principles they outline suggestions of the "heavy shifts in management style" that you suggest?

Posted by: Rick Pan | Jul 31, 2005 8:23:39 PM

Everyone IS creative. The challenge is that most organizations do not set the right working conditions for creative work. Creativity requires exploration of a problem space, ideation, tangible representations of ideas that can be shared (not discussion) and multiple viewpoints evaluating the ideas.

While this list may seem obvious there are many conditions of the contemporary workplace that are at odds with achieveing this kind of cultural environment.

Posted by: Chris Conley | Aug 3, 2005 2:51:16 AM

Chris is right on the button with his comment. Bureaucracy, as I have said on "does size matter?", is a semantically laden word, but processes and procedures can block or ease the progress of innovation. On the other hand, it can be argued, and it has been done so in the past, that the problem has it's roots years before reaching the workplace. Basic schooling and education has become so much of a treadmill that with the exception of few small private schools, most are diploma mills for managing the free time of teenagers and not hothouses for learning, encouraging curiosity and creativity. Is it any wonder we forget our sense of wonder by the time we graduate?

Posted by: Niti Bhan | Aug 3, 2005 5:12:58 AM

It is so true that education has become a treadmill and the actual teaching and learning [and the "user-experience" of the student] seems to be going to the bottom of the list. As a pertinent example I attended a 2 day faculty meeting laast week where students were not discussed once. I find that somewhat astounding. In my own experience [and country] I perceive this as an insitutional microcosm of the wider societal picture.

In giving this topic quite a deal of thought in recent times I think we could take the whole bureaucracy and company - culture discussion to another level and explore the impact of national culture on attitudes to innovation.

For example I know from recent media presentations by key players in research organisations in Australia notably the CSIRO (http://www.csiro.au/) that there is deep concern that Australia actually is a culture where innovation is discouraged. I have experienced many situations that basically confirm this as a real possibility.

This is naturally quite disturbing, but I wonder about the relationship to the debate/discussion about the issue of creativity in China seen elsewhere on this site.

Richard Florida's recent book explores the idea of the flight of the creative classes from traditional [sic] centres of innovation.

We speak of workplace/corporate culture as being central to orientation to innovation - what part does national identity play in the picture? Is this reflected in how we educate our young?

Posted by: Ian McArthur | Aug 3, 2005 1:01:30 PM


You bring up a valid point about national identity and culture and it's relevant impact on creativity. I did some indepth research for a paper on Singapore's design policy about a year ago, and these issues of the education system forcing rote learning for exams rather than creativity and critical thinking in children were of concern to the government as they moved forward on their attempt to create a knowledge based economy. My thoughts on this would be far too much for a comment here, but let me pull them together and either email you or post them online somewhere.


Posted by: Niti Bhan | Aug 3, 2005 7:22:00 PM

Niti – I’m very interested in your notes as well, so please send them my way as well :-)

Ian – The treadmill metaphor applies to many countries and their education sector. Denmark has over the years done many benchmark analysis with the other European countries and each and every time we end up in bad end. Not very glamorous for a country which call it self a knowledge driven economy.

It seems that the sector is so stocked in old ways doing things, methods, structures, grading what ever that it can’t see a way out. It seems that every thing has a proven result, a bottom-line result – some things of course has – but take a look at this weblog, at this conversation and one will experience that not every thing is given from the very beginning. Things emerge out of nothing and are most of the time out of control.

That leads us back to the internal culture discussion. Most management is steered by spreadsheets, mid-management-weekly-reports and overall control with each and every aspect in the company. Guidelines for everything is in place, even lunch and for that reason many live in “systems” where innovation and creativity is given by a management dictated formula.

I think that many companies now have to face the challenge that EACH and EVERYONE IS creative and they should be threaded with respect.

All the best
Hans Henrik

Posted by: Hans Henrik | Aug 3, 2005 8:41:11 PM

I, too, believe that everyone IS creative in some manner. And that it is the organization's structure, feedback cycle, attention to their employee's personal goals, etc. that has the potential to foster or squash creative energies.

I've worked with an interesting company, CPS-B, that has a method, SOQ, for assessing the creative environment of culture and their willingness to change. Check it out. It's quite interesting (http://www.cpsb.com/cnk/soq.html).

Posted by: Brianna Sylver | Aug 19, 2005 11:09:51 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

About CPH127

CPH127 is a sense-making initiative. We aim to create a open dialogue around the profound understanding of the leadership, organization and strategy of creative business functions with the aim to create new value (for customers, employers and stakeholders.

Recent comments

Recent posts




Subscribe to this blog's feed


Enter your Email

eXTReMe Tracker