I fear I’m being set up to fail so I can be forced out of the company. I’ve been ordered to take over R&D – the most innovation-demanding department in the company. I’m suspicious about my “promotion” for the following reasons:
- My company is transitioning to an innovation-centered culture modelled on Google where they empower the entire staff to propose solutions and improvements.
- Before my promotion, they insisted that I have creativity-assessment testing done. My scores were low. Why put a non-original thinker in charge of innovation? The company has been de-hiring those with no creative aptitude. You can see why I’m suspicious.
- I now also have direct responsibility for several unfettered skunkworks projects supposedly designed to produce radical innovation in our manufacturing company. These skunkworks have been unsuccessful for at least a decade because our just-fired, risk-adverse CEO favored copying the “proven” innovations of competitors. The failure of these projects will become more visible in light of the company’s strategic shift to creativity. Obviously, I’m being set up as the fall guy.
- There are various factions within the company that are causing political turmoil. Unfortunately, I’m not part of the dominant faction.
Do you have any strategies that could keep me employed with this company, Lauren?
You’re undoubtedly going to ask what my top talents are. From the time I was 10, I’ve loved to support my father with his busy executive work. I’m the promoter. I help behind the scenes as a researcher, strategist, co-creator, problem-solver, enthusiastic backer, and gifted recruiter of resources. I’m the organizer, supporter, and cheerleader of movers and shakers.
I provide the systems, processes and strategies to help others successfully achieve worthy goals. I’m passionate about solving implementation puzzles. I seem to collide with the necessary information, models, and resources to do this. I usually run large administrative departments. I’m a super-organized, backroom, details guy. All i’s are dotted, and t’s are crossed in my world.
There you have my dilemma, Lauren. Any suggestions for surviving this transition to a creativity-focused company?
II REDEFINITION OF YOUR GOAL
Let me give you the good news, Nicholas. I have an idea for redesigning your job to solve your personal creativity issues, your company’s creativity issues, as well as your political and employment sustainability issues in such a way as to dramatically vault you to levels of career success and lifetime contribution you’ve not yet imagined. Sound impossible?
Well, I’ve designed a mission customized to your strengths and talents, Nicholas, which should enable you to achieve sustainable self-actualization. To make things interesting, this career-augmenting, problem-solving mission is based on the creativity and leadership you believe you don’t have and can’t have. Hang on to your hat, Nicholas. Your identity, your functionality, and your world are about to change.
1. The demand for creativity
Businesses worldwide and the executives who run them must deal daily with the creativity shortage. It’s bigger now than the leadership shortage. Which makes sense since the two shortages are linked.
Leadership is creational. Managers manage what exists. Leaders bring the new into existence. The chart below illustrates how the advance from manager to leader requires an increase in creativity. You’re going to want to be comfortably positioned in that right column to lead the mission I have in mind for you, Nicholas:
The volatility and fast pace of today’s business world makes innovation, inventiveness, resourcefulness, responsiveness, creativity, and adaptivity essential in our leaders.
“Chief executives believe successfully navigating an increasingly more complex world will require creativity.” This was the finding of the IBM 2010 Global CEO Study over a decade ago. It’s even more true today. According to a 2017 PWC survey, 77% of CEOs cannot recruit the creativity and innovation skills they need.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills is a collection of 250 researchers at 60 institutions. For years, they’ve selected “creativity” as one of the topmost required skills. Obviously, there’s good reason for us to spend time developing your creational abilities, Nicholas, whether you stay or leave your current employer. Your new mission will provide the necessary upgrade while launching your greatest lifework. Let’s turn lemons into lemonade, shall we? Are you in?
I’m all in, Lauren! Tell me more.
2. Two types of creativity: “inborn” creativity and “logic-sourced” creativity
Super, Nicholas. Let’s get started. For me, “innovation” improves an existing system. “Creativity” merges existing information systems to generate an entirely new, unprecedented system. I want you to absorb how actionable this definition of creativity is, Nicholas.
It means that even those not considered creative can generate creations and inventions by using logic. Anyone can re-combine existing information systems to yield something novel.
Steve Jobs’ inborn creativity vs Bill Gates’ logic-sourced creativity
Therefore, there are two types of creativity that I want to augment through the redesign of your job, Nicholas: (a) natural innate creativity such as is often attributed to Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple, and (b) the logic-sourced creativity of Bill Gates, Co-founder of Microsoft. Both world-changers created the unprecedented. However, contrary to public opinion, I feel Gates may be more creative than Jobs. I want his style of logic-sourced creativity to be the model for you, Nicholas.
In the words of rival Steve Jobs, “Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology.” “He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
Yale University computer science professor, David Gelernter agreed. He wrote in “Time” magazine in 1998 that he believes Gates is overrated as a pioneer and entrepreneur. “Bill Gates is an American unoriginal.” Gelernter contends that Microsoft often makes products by re-combining ideas that already exist in the marketplace.
Isn’t this the very definition of creativity? The logic-sourced creativity of Bill Gates is precisely the form of creativity I’ve observed in you, Nicholas, when you’re strategizing, problem-solving, and accelerating your “clients” to achieve goals that are meaningful to you.
With your strong constellation of project-accelerator talents, you magically source information systems and partial or complete models of similar solutions and re-combine them to repeatedly generate novel solutions throughout your behind-the-scenes implementation process.
Rather than being a noncreative, Nicholas, I think your creativity is profound when you’re pursuing this work that you find so gratifying and compelling and for which your broad range of talents empower you to excel. This is a creativity domain or field of peak performance in which you are consistently and ingeniously creative. Do you now see how inventive and adaptive you are, Nicholas?
I never thought of the talent I have for helping people to achieve their goals as creative. But my solutions were indeed original as per your definition for creativity. Now that I think of it, the theme of such past projects also fits the creational requirements of your definition for leadership. Interesting. I hadn’t considered myself a strong leader because I work behind the scenes to help others to shine. Yet I do, indeed, cause intentional outcomes and creations in reality through others as you require. Your definitions are causing me to re-evaluate my stereotypic view of leaders and creatives and my own identity.
Excellent, Nicholas. Let’s augment your strength in both roles. They are intertwined. Before I introduce you to what I believe will be your most career-enhancing mission to date, I want to explain how one would redesign one’s work to boost both logic-sourced creativity and the inborn creativity you think you don’t have.