Overcoming barriers, challenges to creative change

People learn to do what they are told - whether it is their boss or their husband - never questioning and often never understanding why

David Rigby
David Rigby - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The organizations that thrive over time are not those with the deepest pockets, but those that unleash and apply their workforce’s creativity. Leaders who can nurture their own creativity while igniting it in others can use the strategic business weapon most crucial to gaining a competitive edge.

Survival - whether reducing costs, increasing revenue or changing the market you are in - requires innovation, courage, honesty, accepting to take risks, and understanding that if you keep doing what you always did while the rest of the world moves on, you will probably go out of business. So what is the chief barrier to success?

Many organizations and schools are rules-based, and do not encourage questioning the status quo or anything else. I heard of a teacher in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who banned his pupils from asking questions.

People learn to do what they are told - whether it is their boss or their husband - never questioning and often never understanding why. This is especially true of people from Middle East and Asian cultures, whereas in the UK respect has to be earned and authority challenged, generally in a cooperative way. So in the UAE we need to learn how to challenge the status quo in a non-threatening way.

There are many approaches to enabling innovation, but creative people think in different ways from each other, and each needs the freedom to develop their own creativity and help others access theirs.

People need to have the confidence to take risks and collaborate. They need to be constantly reassured that risk, innovation and creativity is OK. Equally, management needs to know what is going on. Having great ideas is one thing, turning them into opportunities is another, as is knowing how to evaluate and recognize when to stop. However, none of these will succeed unless the management, leadership and the organization allow it happen.

Many organizations have processes to manage risk in innovation. Following the process with confidence requires absolute trust and excellent people skills, including:
leading with vision and making it easy for followers to dream the same dream
collaborative leadership rather than command and control
the ability to explain ideas in ways that the audience / management will understand
not dismissing ideas because they are not yours
acknowledging people, and not stealing ideas from the team and claiming them as yours
the ability to give praise for failure as long as that failure is learnt from
emotionally intelligent leaders who recognize emotions in themselves and encourage the passions of others
mindful staff who are able observe without judgment and distil ideas from their observations
the ability to follow a method or process, but have the experience to recognize that these are guidelines, not rules, and sometimes rules can be changed and broken

The author is presenting on this topic at a Government Innovation Processes Masterclass as part of the Customer Engagement Technology forum in Dubai on Sept. 5.

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