Creativity and change in the complexity of an organisation.
Note: This is a translation of a post originally written in Spanish.
Change does not happen by simply desiring it. I have tried by all means to generate instantaneous changes and the truth is that I have not succeeded. The concept of change gives a sense of immediacy, of automatic clicking that makes us think that just by wanting it, change is going to occur. As a child, I would spend hours in front of the black and white TV in our kitchen, dreaming that with a single wiggle of my nose, I would be able to tidy my room like Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) in Bewitched would. I would spend hours in front of the mirror and nothing happened. No nose wiggling, no clothes hanging. Nothing.
As a matter of fact, changes are not automatic, nor instantaneous. They are processes that start well before taking the first step towards something new.
Each change is conceived from a sense of discomfort, an annoyance. Either personal or professional. It starts with something we do not like. May be the rules of trade have changed, or new technological options have surged, or new competitors, mergers … you name it. All events change us and at some point we reflect and decide whether we like them, whether they are beneficial to us, whether they are in line with our strategy and goals or we just decide to not accept them as they come.
I often encounter corporations that express the need to change. They produce keynotes full of targets and goals; they spend thousands and thousands of hours on filling slides with graphics and words. They organise hundreds of meetings and summits to debate change and then forget one fundamental detail: the will to actually go and do it.
Wanting to change is not enough, one has to be willing to let it happen and open to all the new possibilities that will arise as soon as we begin to move. One has to get their hands dirty because “change” is a process that starts by exploring the path that has lead us to this turning point.
This review of what we have done so far needs to be a conscious one. Revising our strengths, we need to decide what we will take to the other side, to the new reality that we intend to create. As you may have noticed, I do not speak of a future that arrives, nor of one that comes or happens. I speak of generating and of processes. And of attitude. Changes do not happen, one produces them. Because it is not enough to just wish for them, you have to feel like working towards them. Deliberately. And be prepared for the consequences. Also deliberately.
Change does not happen in a department, because that unit does not work independently, it functions within a system and its change has side effects on other departments.
You can not pretend to be a creative organisation if creativity is not part of its structure, of the company culture. Do you need to have Google‘s offices to be more creative? No. You need to be you with an open mind and a will to change sprung from the very belly of the organisation and therefore, unfailingly, from each of the people who are part of it.
Organisations are people-based, and much like the human body, each of their cells responds to stimuli. If all of them engage in a well-organised action, the movement will be successful. Otherwise, they will simply cause a meaningless gesture, a spasm, or a twitch.
Sending your team to a corporate innovation workshop will not make them more innovative if they themselves, as cells of your body-company, do not adopt an open attitude towards the new. It is very common to hear team leaders blindly describe their people as being very creative while at the same time evading questions as on why they are unable to generate more ideas. And watching them in action, you may observe that from above, at the slightest possibility of saying something new, they receive a NO for an answer. And of course… who wants to contribute something when they know in advance the answer is going to be negative? Who is able to return home satisfied having been systematically rejected? Who can offer more and better ideas or solutions to projects, if every time they open their mouth, they encounter a brick wall? I’ll spare you the guessing: nobody will.
If you want to have a more creative team, you need to experience what creativity actually is. You don’t need to be an expert, you only need to understand creativity, respect it, promote it and live it. It has to become part of you. Taking innovation courses will not make you innovate in your company if you, as a person, are not willing to live and experience that innovation. Just like a creativity workshop will not give you creativity (it’s not something that is given), it will only open your eyes to methods, systems and tips to “hack” what you already knew, the way you work and the way you conceive the world. Because you can not turn on creativity when you walk in the company door and turn it off when you leave. Creativity means having an open mind to change, curiosity for what may happen. While you remaster the tools, you will start to shift your position, to explore and to lose fear of events modifying you.
To lose fear of the new means to let go of the comfort of the known and to evaluate what we have done right and where we may have been wrong. Being aware of failures may not be nice, but not acknowledging them while spending time and resources on Powerpoints that will become obsolete as soon as you finish them, is definitely worse.
Managing changes is all about knowing who we are, being honest about who we want to become, knowing that both our complexity, we ourselves and the entire sphere that surrounds us will change, with butterfly effect, at the very first movement. It is as if reality will change at every step, even long before we reach our goal. Just like a 10 km race becomes a 8 km race once you’ve run the first 2 km. And at that moment you will have to manage your energy levels for the remaining distance.
Changes are generated from within the organizations, and before they reach the company’s meeting rooms, they are generated in each of the individuals who work at it. In other words, if you want your company to change, or become innovative, it will not happen magically on Monday at 9 am. No, changes are processes. An evolution of facts has brought you to the idea of change, together with analysis of advantages and disadvantages for the next situation. Here you are, at the second phase of the process. You will enter the third phase once you activate the mechanisms to execute it.
- How do you deal with change?
- Have you tried to change things in your personal life or in your organisation?
- Do you feel you have made progress? Or maybe you don´t?
- What strategies have you used so far?
- Could it be that the fear of the new paralyses us so much that it makes us give up what we were trying to change?
It is probably the person who does not recognise they have a problem who needs to be asking themselves that last question. Please remind me that, next time, we talk about self-blindness.