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Business Creativity & Innovation

Business Creativity ( why you need it and how to buy it) Part 4

In the fourth part of this series I take a look at managing creativity, the main uses of creativity and begin to investigate how to go about buying it.

Managing creativity

This seems to be an oxymoron, how can you manage a concept that demands free thinking, exploration and being able to live with ambiguity? The answer is simple (as opposed to easy). We have to construct processes that allow creativity to flourish and employ managers that are capable of working in such a way. How much time can employees spend at the coffee machine, how much time can they spend on research projects and can the company actually tolerate employees that do not conform to a stereotype? It is not a case of creativity or nothing, there are various shades, however businesses must be aware of the choices that they will need to make.

Main uses

Creativity has many uses but the following are the ones that I have come across most frequently.

  • Strategy – reviewing existing strategy and defining/clarifying new strategies
  • Scenario planning – using storytelling so that all parties can 'live' the story
  • Cultural change – mainly centred around motivationempoweringrment
  • Effectiveness of training and development – making use of creative techniques embedded in training courses
  • Part of innovation programmes – changing mindsets, changing existing structure and culture

How to buy Creativity

Here I refer simply to 'consultancy' although I am talking about all providers of creativity whether they act as consultants, trainers or facilitators. There are many factors which contribute to an effective working relationship between consultants and clients. It is crucial that a purchaser of consultancy understands what they aim to achieve from the outset. At the start of a project it is highly likely that there will be no objectives, and even when they are defined, a client will often be puzzled by the strange terminology that providers of creativity might be tempted to use.

At this point I urge clients to ask about the things that they are not clear about. This might not clarify everything but the client will establish that the consultant knows their subject matter thoroughly. This can be critical where a trainer might be employed instead of a facilitator.

The ultimate success of a consulting project is determined long before you've talked to an actual consultant, and depends on the extent to which you have been able to identify and agree the precise reasons why you're hiring consultants. In most organisations, managers think about these reasons in terms of what they expect the consultants to do, not in relation to the underlying role they're expecting the consultants to play. Nor do they consider how their expectations match the prevailing market conditions. What kind of client are you? How can you assess the risk of developing a unique approach? Are the issues you face new ones, or are you trying to catch up with your competitors?

In my next article I shall look at why you might need outside help to get your creativity programme going.

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