With technology begetting more technology, innovation appears to be increasing at an increasing rate. Consequently in many industries, if a business is not cutting edge, it may not be too long before it fails to make the cut. Accordingly business managers/leaders have a corresponding need to foster creativity within the organization toward realizing more innovation of product and service just to sustain a favorable image and position in the market—current and future. Doing so is not so much a skill or technique as it is an attitude or mindset about people that is evident in the leadership one exhibits.
In an interview with Adam Bryant of the New York Times, Doreen Lorenzo, president of Frog Design, offered some insight into leading creative people. First and foremost is the requirement of the leader embracing chaos, since the creative process is inherently unpredictable and not controllable? As Doreen noted, “I’m very good at managing the chaos and pulling it together to make something that’s really tangible and creating that environment where people can thrive…Micromanagement is the death of creativity, so you have to create an environment where they can succeed, and where the environment can expand.” It is this last point, creating the environment, which is central to creativity emerging.
Creative Space by Design
Management in authority must attend to creating a workplace environment through structure, policy and management practice wherein people’s inherent thirst for creativity and innovation can be satisfied and sustained. This means creating the space—the physical, psychological and temporal space—wherein people can freely exercise their capabilities without fear and constraint. As Doreen believes, “what creative people want, more than money, or fame or power, is to be listened to.” People want to be related to as people, not objects. So the absence of fear and constraint doesn’t mean there is a void or nothingness, rather it means there is caring, respect, understanding and support. This becomes the basis of a self-actualizing system, one that is capable of actualizing its potential.
Those in authority actualize potential by the psychological and physical space they create, through their choice of organizational design and management practice. The first step in organizational design is establishing the basis of meaning through a vision that deeply resonates within people. As Doreen spoke to the vision of Frog Design which is “to change the world, and our people are really passionate about that.” Meaning is essential to people and thus to the viability of a business.
Creative Work Thru Meaning
As explained in a previous essay, our work should resonate deep within us, connecting us to our humanness. Thus when management enables the job to become a joy the likelihood of the creative spirit emerging is greatly increased. We should feel inspirited not dispirited because of our work. Geoff Vuleta, CEO of Fahrenheit 212, spoke to the importance of meaning to people in a previous essay: “They want to know two things. They want to know what they should be doing, and they want to know what they’re doing is important. And you must, therefore, set up an environment in which they totally trust that.” Therefore responsible leaders give people meaningful work and provide the direction and support so that they know what to do and why it is important to do. This is not about delegating work it is about enabling potential to become actualized through the work.
Lead People As If
The focus and orientation of management-in-practice is what makes the difference. Consider Douglas McGregor’s Theory X & Theory Y. According to this theory managers are fundamentally different due in large part to the assumptions one makes about the people over which they hold legitimate authority. Theory X managers believe those they manage avoid work, are not intelligent and have little to no capacity for creativity. Theory Y managers believe quite the opposite. Those managed by Theory X’ers tend to be as assumed, abhorring work, not exhibiting intelligence and creativity. However those managed by Theory Y’ers tend to be as assumed as well, finding work enjoyable and exhibiting both intelligence and creativity. The lesson here is that if you relate to (and thus manage) people as you assume them to be, they will be as you assume. Managing/leading as if people are creative will most likely foster the emergence of their creativity.