Creativity Is An Essential Part Of Transformation

Jan Koster

Organizations that want to transform need employees with a healthy dose of creativity. Luckily, HR managers do not have to go searching for these individuals, because creativity can be taught.

In my previous blog post I discussed the changing skillset the World Economic Forum foresees for the year 2020. It mentions creativity as the biggest riser. Why?

Creativity is an important factor in the transformation process

Organizations that are transforming are changing into something new, something that did not exist before. When these organizations transform into something that not only does not exist within their own company but that doesn’t exist yet within other companies, that is true innovation.

As an organization, you want to determine what you want to transform into. But how do you outline a view of something that isn’t there yet? How can you conceive possible innovative applications of all technologies that are currently available and will be available in the near future?

The goal is to create a new situation in which you, as an organization, will be able to perform better in a more innovative way.

This requires entrepreneurship, but also fresh new ideas. You need creativity to create innovative ideas that enable your organization to stay relevant. Einstein once said, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.”

Can you learn how to be creative?

You can train creativity, just as you can train emotional intelligence. David Kelly, one of the founders of Design Thinking, says in his book Creative Confidence: “Creativity is a choice. It starts with the decision to be creative. If the will is not there, nothing will happen.”

Dick Swaab, neurobiologist and author of  We Are Our Brains, explains in his newest book, Our Creative Brain:

“Creativity is the process of making new combinations from components that are already present. The components largely enter the brain the entire day from our surroundings, and are partially produced by our own brains. The components are then filtered, because we would go crazy if they weren’t; so we focus on things. Some people’s filters are more open than others. People who have their filters wide open can make new, sometimes a lot of new, combinations; but if the filter is too widely open, they will hit their limits of good functioning.

So if you want to become more creative, you need to widen your filter. David Kelley has a few tips on how to do this:

  • Think as a traveler. Don’t sit behind your desk waiting for the magic to happen. Expose yourself to new experiences and ideas. Innovation often happens at the edges of the organization, where the organization is in contact with other parties in the ecosystem.
  • Empathy for the end user: See things from end-user’s point of view. You will come up with better ideas if you look at the world from their perspective and understand what they want. Empathy is the basis for design thinking!
  • Observe: Observe other people and you will discover new opportunities hidden in plain sight.
  • Keep asking questions, and start with why? This will enable you to expose the question behind the question. A healthy dose of curiosity will come in handy!
  • Relaxed attention take a step back and give your brain the time and space to create connections between seemingly unrelated ideas.

One person is undoubtedly more talented than another, regardless of whether the talent is congenital or learned at an early stage. Some people are born with a huge filter and as a result, they hit the limits of normal functioning. This explains the relationship between psychiatry and artists.

What about KPIs and procedures?

The tips listed above are useful for anyone who wants to stir their inner creative flame. But what if you are employed by an organization with closely defined positions, loaded with KPIs and strict procedures, where the slightest creative input is immediately smothered?

Such organizations need to realize that transformation is a continuous process, that continuous transformation is a must to also stay relevant in the future, and that you need people with fresh—sometimes even wild—ideas. You also need people who can pick up those wild ideas, incubate them, and demonstrate their value. Finally, you need people who are able to convince the organization to adopt the innovation. But it all starts with a good, creative idea.

Here are some fundamental tips for organizations that want to stimulate creativity:

  • Create visibility: Ensure that your organization recognizes and acknowledges the need for creative ideas and transformation. Include it in your mission statement.
  • Give space: Give your employees the space to be creative and to come up with ideas. Encourage the people who have a passion and talent for it; they are the ones making the choice to be creative.
  • Select the right people: Understand that creative people are not always the right people to fully grow their ideas. Select the people with a passion and talent for entrepreneurship for this. In turn, the creative team will see that their ideas are actually being used.
  • Accept failure: Realize and accept as an organization that not every try will be successful: Failure is an option. You will learn from failure, and it may be the impetus for new ideas. Try to do this as early in the process as possible.

Expand your filter and open your mind! And don’t forget the most important part: It all starts with the choice and the will to be creative.

For more strategies to boost business through workplace creativity, see Three Ways To Turn Innovative Ideas Into Reality.


Jan Koster

About Jan Koster

Jan Koster has been working in the world of SAP since 1997. As an innovation principle, he is building the bridge between the technological innovations of SAP and the potential or desired business innovations of the customer. To build this bridge, the design thinking approach is used, focusing on innovation and assigning human meaning to technology. In his blogs, he shares his vision and experience in innovation and transformation.