Evergreen Leadership Blog


The Innovation Imperative: Four Things to Foster Innovation in Organizations

The forces of change surround us and are unrelenting. Fiber optics allow us to move data at amazing speeds and the cost of storage has plummeted from a cool $300K for 1 gig in 1980, to virtually free today. In addition to the accelerating power of the internet, we see an explosion in the speed of change. It may be driven by technology but it touches all that we do.

We find ourselves in an environment in which disruption is the steady state. Responding to today’s environment requires us to think about business in a different light. Where innovation exists alongside optimization. Where we get comfortable with the joy of creating, the emotion of connecting, and the powerful output of networks and collaborations.

Keep reading to find out four ways to foster innovation within organizations. You won’t want to miss the section where I discuss bringing creativity into the workforce to build connections with current and future customers.

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Why Embracing Failure is the Wrong Message

Face it: Failure stinks. No one I know likes it. And even the most successful and creative people I know, don’t celebrate things that turned out poorly.

Yet a mantra that has emerged in the last five years is to “celebrate” failure. Really? Celebrate?

While I get, on some level, the reasoning to encourage people to take a risk and actually “do something” – the notion of celebrating failure is not, what I believe, is in anyone’s best interest.

Learn about other behaviors that are detrimental to organizations, and discover what healthy behaviors your organization should consider adding.

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Creative Organizations Do These 3 Things Well

Creativity does not just “happen” in innovative organizations. Creative organizations have a very different culture than their less creative peers. In these organizations, creative teams focus on different things than their non-creative counterparts. And on those teams, creative people cultivate and practice the skill of innovation and creativity.

Creative organizations are a culmination of the right actions at these three levels:

– A creativity nurturing culture
– Leaders who encourage creativity
– Individuals with the skill and the will to create.

In today’s post, I’m going to share some actions you can take at all three levels to encourage, support and reap the rewards of creativity in their organizations.

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The Creative Process in Organizations

The creative process is truly a process. Whether creating a symphony, a piece of art, a new product or service or an organizational initiative; both the artist, the entrepreneur and the corporate leader take the same steps. That path from idea to implementation is a long and arduous one. A journey worth taking, but one that Is not for the faint of heart.

I’ve articulated six steps in the creative process – and this process is the same if you are creating art or creating a new business. In this post, I’ll articulate those steps followed by a simple explanation. A very simple explanation! The goal today is to provide an overview of the process – in later posts we’ll do deeper dives.

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Leaders as Creators

In this series on creativity within organizations, I am reposting this blog post from 2015. In it, I describe the role of leaders as creators.

An artist looks at their work in a totally different frame of mind than a mechanic does. The artist sees infinite possibility. The mechanic sees a problem to be solved.

As a leader, you are often in the “mechanic mode”. People bring to you problems to be solved, work to be done, decisions to be made, dilemmas to be fixed, and that is a valuable and ever-present part of the role you play.

But how often do you play the role of creator? Of someone who can envision a better future and then find a way to make that vision a reality?

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Five Mistaken Assumptions Business People Have about Creativity and Innovation

Continuing on with my exploration of innovation and creativity in the “workplace”, let me share some common myths I encounter as I talk about creativity in the business world and the role of leaders as creators. The notion clearly is dissonant to many who hold the prevailing belief that work is work and creativity is play or at best only for the arts. As I peel back what underlies this notion that creativity and business are integrated rather than disparate.

Here are some of the common beliefs that block creativity from business that are well worth a critical examination.

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How to Cast Vision with Your Team

Hate to tell you, but if you are patiently waiting for upper management to proclaim their vision for your work and your team, it most likely is NOT going to happen. Or at least in the degree of granularity you might be hoping for.

We all want to have work with meaning – and as a leader, it is your job to help create that meaning. The good news is that each of us has the ability (and perhaps the obligation) to cast vision – for yourself and your team.

The notion of vision scares us at times. It sounds big. Pretentious. Unknown and unknowable. You might struggle with deciding what is “too big” and what is “too little”. I encourage you to acknowledge the doubts and plow ahead. I’d much rather put my effort toward a “too big” vision than none at all. And if you err by starting small, you will have at least started. Small steps are better than no steps. …

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Collective Wisdom or Collective Folly: What Do you Nurture as a Leader?

I often say “we are smarter than me,”… referring to the increased capacity, deep wisdom, creativity, and solid decisions that groups of people can make – as opposed to one individual acting in isolation. No matter how smart that one person is, in general they will be “outsmarted” but a group of people. That is, of course, if that group of people can work together effectively.

Briskin, Erickson, Ott, and Callanan examine the phenomena of group decision making in their book, The Power of Collective Wisdom: And the Trap of Collective Folly. They answer how groups can come up with novel and powerful solutions to intractable problems at times – and at other times wallow in cobbled together solutions that are amazingly awful.

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Share a Story this Thanksgiving

As you gather across the generations this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to share stories as well as a meal. Share them, celebrate them, and save them. We all have a life story – and the longer we live, the richer the story. Far too often in our fast-paced, media-driven world, the most meaningful stories can get lost. It is an act of affirmation to be asked to share our story. It is an act of love to listen. When we ask and then listen – we not only affirm, we learn. We enrich our family history. We understand our families, ourselves, and our world, in a new and more balanced way.

National Public Radio (NPR) has created the perfect way for you to capture the stories of those around you. Using their StoryCorps platform, they have issued a challenge: to collect 120,000 stories over the Thanksgiving weekend. Their goal: To create an archive containing the single largest collection of human voices ever gathered.

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Strategic Storytelling for Business

The notion of telling stories in business is at times a bit suspect – as if telling a story was the same as spreading a falsehood. Or perhaps a bit too frivolous for the “serious” nature of the work we do. Or a bit too theatrical, pushing us well outside our comfort zone.

Doug Stevenson, founder and chief story teller at Story Theater International (and his amazing side-kick and muse, Deborah Merriman) have cracked the code on “strategic storytelling” for business. I had the wonderful opportunity to join three others in a retreat at Doug’s studio recently.

Doug draws heavily on his acting training and Hollywood experience to bring “the magic of storytelling” into a business setting. He breaks down the essential elements of story and teaches how to craft a compelling tale that captures attention and sticks with you for a very long time. Most importantly, he instructs business people in how to make their point using story. For storytelling in business is more than just spinning a good yarn or telling a story to get a few yucks. Much more than that.

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