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Innovation and Engagement—The Essential Power Couple

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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Need a power couple on your team?  If so, read on… 

How much is an idea worth? Apparently, an idea is worth enough that some companies are now adding the skill of innovation (creative thinking) to each employee’s performance evaluation. 

A creativity proposition 

Innovation? Yep.  In essence, what’s being expected from every rank-and-file employee in some corporate settings is the ability to come up with ideas—not to mention the need for critical thinking skills. I believe that this ability to generate ideas and problem solve will be a key deciding factor in whether to hire or retain certain employees.

I might be getting ahead of reality here, but wouldn’t that be an idea worth implementing in some way? And I do believe it can happen—if companies begin to see and experience that creativity is a skill that can be learned with great collective benefits. 

Some leaders in top companies have already embraced that notion.  In a study conducted by the IBM Leadership institute, it was revealed that 1500 CEO’s identified creativity as the most essential leadership competency in impacting the success of their companies going forward. I think that might surprise some. Yet, it was a necessary choice. 

In our current economic climate what could be the most compelling “skill” in all work sectors but the ability to generate ideas for any pressing challenge and to innovate ourselves out of a lagging economic recovery? Indeed, it’s not only a compelling skill for an economic recovery, but a refreshing partner for the relentless challenge of employee engagement. 

In order to see the value of this power coupling we first have to have the right mindset regarding creativity. Some reading this post might be thinking, “Well not everyone is creative, so that would leave some employees out.” Oh contraire, my friend. 

Demystifying creativity 

 The exciting point is everyone is creative in some way;  it’s consistently proven in my workshops. The sad reality is not very people know it or believe it, and even fewer have been taught how to be so in practical terms. 

Why? I believe it is because most leaders don’t believe they are creative or innovative, and therefore, they are afraid to approach the subject. In essence, they just don’t know what to do with it. 

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Recently, I was conducting a creativity workshop for a company whose industry is going through some major changes. There were more than 45 top leaders there. When I asked, “How many of you honestly believe you are creative?” only five of the 45 raised their hand. 

Why did so few people raise their hands? Because, in general, most exposure to creativity has only come through the arts. Newsflash: creativity is not reserved only for the “artsy fartsy” folks! This belief truly blocks the non-artsy from embracing and tapping into their own creative potential. 

The reality is creativity—and innovative thinking—is a critically relevant skill that must be incorporated into all company cultures from the top leadership down. It should no longer be seen as an unapproachable, optional capability. 

In its simplest form creativity is about generating ideas, and we all have done that! It's also about problem solving, and we've all done that as well. 

Creativity asks us to source for something outside our current circumstance. That whole "thinking outside the box thing" suggests this. It invites an approach to problem solving that asks us to go where no man probably has gone before (or at least forgot they've been) as suggested by Albert Einstein, "You cannot solve a problem at the same level of thinking at which you arrived at it." 

In demystifying creativity then, it can be seen as a simple act with a profound impact! We just need to uncouple the misunderstandings that have been generated around it so that we can experience its great value. 

So in order to address our corporate challenges, which might include process improvement, developing a competitive edge, doing more with less, achieving new and better outcomes, creativity must be embedded in every work culture in a way that is approachable and practical.  

We must be able to help all stakeholders see that we all exhibit creative thinking in some way and then be trained on how to channel that capability into meaningful contexts for both corporate and professional success.  

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Enter employee engagement 

And here is where employee engagement and creativity begin their romance.  Employees who learn how to be creative and think innovatively, discover that the very act of being creative is in itself an “engaging” experience. 

Creativity is really more than an act, but an experience on a multi-sensory level; it is fun, exhilarating, intuitive, confidence building, surprising, relevant, collaborative, contemplative, motivating, spirited, bonding, accountable, fuels “work-esteem”, at moments all encompassing and multi-dimensional. It nurtures a magnetic connection to desired outcomes as well as a commitment to the subsequent activity that can bring the resulting ideas to life!  

In fact creativity can elevate how we see and nurture engagement. By its very nature it can achieve in this realm what other practices of engagement cannot. 

But alas, we must come down to earth and full circle to the current truths shared earlier regarding attitudes, lack of understanding and therefore lack of consideration for the value and role of creativity and innovative thinking in business operations. 

In my experience, it’s claimed to be so needed; yet little is done to implement it in employee training or culture integration. 

If we want employees to be more engaged, let’s first start with leaders being more engaged in learning and experiencing their own creativity.  And soon, these leaders will  heartily welcome to their companies the power couple of creativity and engagement that they so desperately need. 

Bio: JoAnn Corley is founder and CEO of The Human Sphere, a consultancy that helps companies increase profits through holistic talent management. She is a seasoned HR, training, and development professional, speaker, and coach, who has conducted thousands of professional development seminars throughout North America on themes such as creativity, management, productivity, emotional intelligence, and team collaboration. 

Corley has authored several books and developed an employee training app called The 1% Edge Portable Coach, available on all smartphone platforms. She is passionate about human potential and channels that passion in her work with clients and through speaking, writing, and media contributions.

About the Author

JoAnn Corley is founder and CEO of The Human Sphere, a consultancy that helps companies increase profits through holistic talent management. She is a seasoned HR, training, and development professional, speaker, and coach, who has conducted thousands of professional development seminars throughout North America on themes such as creativity, management, productivity, emotional intelligence, and team collaboration.  Corley has authored several books and developed an employee training app called The 1% Edge Portable Coach, available on all smartphone platforms. She is passionate about human potential and channels that passion in her work with clients and through speaking, writing, and media contributions.

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