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Hot Spots Newsletter: how to support creativity in the organisation

We have been looking at creativity recently: how to promote it in the organisation and how to protect it. As we work more in teams, the creativity "gene" will be the foundation of success for individuals and groups alike.

Have you signed up to the Hot Spots Movement Facebook page? You can also find us at the Future of Work blog and we're also on Linked In. Lynda also has a Twitter feed and you can follow it here.

Workshops update: have you booked your place?

Register NOW for any of these workshops, click here.


There are still places left on our Hot Spots Movement workshops – have you signed up?

One of the elements that works particularly well is that these small groups are from a handful of companies in different areas, so help provide some of the boundary-spanning ideas we have been talking about.

Future-Proofing Your Company | 16 May 2012 | London: Founded on the research findings from the Future of Work Research Consortium, which will soon enter Phase 4,,this workshop will help attendees create an understanding of working life in 2025/2030 and the implications for executives and companies.

Driving Collaboration | 14 June 2012 | London: Collaboration is at the heart of value creation in most businesses today. This workshop will provide insights into the driver of, and barriers to, collaboration and how to make it happen in teams and across an organisation.

Future-Proofing the Team Leader | 27 June 2012 | London: Teams are increasingly recognised as the unit within the organisation where value is created and innovation happens. This workshop provides a toolkit for those leading teams with a focus on understanding what kind of leadership is required for high-performing and innovative teams.

Competition: stunting creativity

At the Hot Spots Movement, we've been thinking a lot about the nature of competition, its relationship to collaboration and its role in the organisation. So many CEOs in previous decades encouraged competing teams and competing individuals, believing this would promote better performance. Over the last decade, this has been shown to be untrue.

Encouraging competition can actually stifle creativity and thus hinder performance. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best performance is actually proven to come through collaboration. If more than 32% of team members are competitive, collaboration will not work.

Creativity is most free-flowing when people are inspired and self-motivated, and enjoying the process itself, rather than under pressure to deliver what someone else wants. Creativity is further hindered by extrinsic motivation – the possibility of a pay rise or a promotion, for example – especially if the individual is focusing on how he / she will be evaluated or measured and they perceive themselves to be in direct competition with others.

So what is the solution to the creativity challenge? Collaboration. Collaboration opens us up to new points of view and processes, which can be inspirational in their own right, or making the process more intrinsically rewarding.

In The New York Times, columnist David Brooks says "competition has trumped value-creation and the competitive arena undermines innovation". He pointed out that we shouldn't be looking to compete – because we should concentrate on defining a niche market – creating and dominating that niche - which echoes our piece on the impact of hyper-specialisation in last month's newsletter.

Just this week, music executives in Miami called for more collaboration between artists and music labels to create new business and more appeal. You can read more about their views here. And remember, the music industry has traditionally been built on competition for the number one spot.

Checklist: how to encourage creativity in the workplace

Having talked about how many corporate structures stifle creativity by their system of evaluation and reward, we thought we would list a few ways that you can promote creativity:

  • allow time and facilitate channels for connections; the brain processes for imagining and thinking are different from those used for other areas of our work, so you need to allocate time – like sports lessons at school!
  • let employees build their networks, internally and externally, so that they have a posse for brainstorming
  • promote quantity of ideas, not quality. It's far easier to select five great ideas from 100 than from a pool of five ideas.
  • with team brainstorming sessions, make sure they are "no judgement" sessions; people think more creatively if they aren't worried about repercussions.
  • encourage diversity of ideas and encourage questions: sometimes challenging the existing status quo is the way forward.
  • make creative sessions feel more relaxed – they are "serious play"
  • capture ideas – all of them. This is part of the team's intrinsic motivation: that the members feel their ideas are being considered.
  • show the contributors that their ideas are valuable by quickly moving on to implementing one or several of them.
  • vary between very open and broad brainstorming sessions and sessions that are focused on a well-defined problem

Whether you're the team leader or not, you can initiate shared, creative moments. When did you last organise a brainstorming session? How does your organisation structure creative sessions like this? Email Tina with your thoughts.

Complex teams: unless you help them, they will fail

Mission-critical teams, usually virtual, and reporting to senior management, perhaps even the CEO or board, are growing in numbers and importance in the workplace of today - and tomorrow. These teams are responsible for solving problems of a strategic nature, or finding new solutions; these teams usually integrate individuals from different offices and countries, and with very different thinking processes.

Unusually, the strengths of these complex teams are also their weaknesses. Take the following characteristics:

  • large
  • virtual
  • diverse
  • composed of highly educated specialists

These qualities are essential in complex teams that often have to react quickly to new and unpredictable tasks such as troubleshooting. Yet these can also increase the risk of under-performance or even failure.

These same qualities can make it difficult for the team to get anything done. Members of complex teams are less likely to share knowledge freely, to learn from each other, to reallocate workloads quickly to avoid bottlenecks, to help one another meet deadlines, and to share resources.

How can we help these teams deliver? Watch this video clip for details.

  • the company's management should invest in building and maintaining relationships in the organisation
  • create role models of collaborative behaviour
  • mentoring and coaching
  • ensure the organisation recruits employees with the skills needed for collaboration
  • support a strong sense of community
  • assign team leaders that are both task- and relationship-oriented, instead of favouring one style
  • ensure some of the team members know each other and have worked together before
  • ensure clarity of role but latitude on how to achieve the task.

Madeline Cranfield is our Collaboration Practice Lead and knows a great deal about how to make complex teams collaboration successfully. Contact her on madeline@hotspotsmovement.com if you would like to hear more.

POLL: from where do you work?

We carried out a survey during Future of Work 3 (FoW3), asking "from where do you work?" The results were very interesting – see the graph for details. That means less than half of those surveyed worked in a conventional office set-up - another reason why mastering complex collaboration is becoming so important in organisations.

As a result, we are currently planning a Jam – online 72 hour knowledge gathering and brainstorming session – on flexible working as many organisations are keen to learn how to make the most of flexible working for all involved.

Contact Tina if you're interested in joining this Jam project.

Farewell to FoW3 – and preparing for FoW4!

We have just completed FoW3, where we introduced the Jam sessions that turned out to be so well received by the member organisations. The themes we covered were: technology and productivity; generational cohesion; complex collaboration; and developing leaders of the future.

But we're not resting! We have already signed up 15 companies for FoW4, which will launch in October: Abbott, Arla Foods, Aditya Birla, Cisco, GEA, KCOM, Marks & Spencer, Ministry of Manpower (Singapore), Novo Nordisk, Outotec, People in Aid, Save the Children, Tata Consultancy Services, Vodafone, and Volvo.

The topics to be covered in FoW4 are:

  1. future talent: how will talent pools and strategies for retention and motivation evolve over the next decade;
  2. agile business: how will organisations and executives learn to build the values, practices and processes to ensure agility in the face of rapid change?
  3. business in society: how will the organisation's role in society develop over the coming decade?

We like to practise what we preach: in true collaborative style, we got a lot of input from FoW3 members, which has helped us put together topics and approaches that are solutions-focused for maximum benefit to the organisation.

The FoW is the most extensive study on co-creation ever conducted between academics and executives, with a 'wise crowd' of hundreds of experts, executives and Gen Ys from across the world coming together. For each cycle, their challenge is to think, talk, share, argue and converse about the world of work they believe will emerge over the next two decades.

If your organisation is interested in joining FoW4, email Tina for more details.

The Shift: in two more languages

The Shift has just been published in Korean and Italian, taking the total to 11 languages and 23 countries.

Have a look at the two covers and let us know what you think!

Reading time

Lynda has again been asked to join the judging panel of the Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year. She joins: FT editor Lionel Barber; former UK minister Shriti Vadera; Jorma Ollila, chairman of the board of directors of Royal Dutch Shell; former Unilever senior executive Vindi Banga; Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and American Action Forum president Doug Holtz-Eakin. We look forward to getting her annual recommendations for our summer reading list!

Who's in our network?

As we are looking at creativity this issue, it seems timely to introduce you to Eric Whitacre, composer and conductor and the man behind the Virtual Choir concept. Eric, who won a Grammy for his classical album Light & Gold, spoke with Lynda at a recent conference in London. He is also currently Composer in Residence at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge University, UK.

Eric's ground-breaking Virtual Choir, Lux Aurumque, received over a million views on YouTube in just 2 months (now 3 million), featuring 185 singers from 12 different countries who uploaded videos of themselves singing one of the choral parts to his composition. The voices were all melded together to create one piece. Virtual Choir 2.0, Sleep, was released in April 2011 and involved over 2,000 voices from 58 countries. Virtual Choir 3, Water Night, received 3,746 videos from 73 counties and was launched at Lincoln Center, New York
and has just been revealed and you can view it here.

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