James Taylor is an award-winning speaker and internationally recognized leader in creativity and innovation. For over 20 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, writers, and rock stars how to build innovative organizations and design the creative life they desire. With AI pervading more and more in our lives, the importance of creativity at the workplace will climb many notches higher.
In this scenario, how can organizations develop a culture of creativity and innovation at the workplace? In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, James, who will also be speaking at TechHR 2019, shares why as machines go on to take up more and more of the non-creative jobs, human beings need to be the creative force, the architect, and the strategist in their organizations.
How is AI impacting creativity, especially at the workplace?
Artificial Intelligence is already changing how creativity is being applied in the workplace, especially when it comes to how AI can augment the creative work we do. For example, today using a type of SuperCreativity™ called Augmented Design, designers of everything from home furniture and movie trailers to aircrafts and cars are using AI to remove a lot of the non-creative work they previously had to do. AI can be brilliant at analytical and tactical work. This then allows us as the humans to focus on the higher level tasks of strategic thinking, creative thinking and asking questions to explore new areas for growth. This is one of the reasons why creativity is becoming a more valuable job skill (the World Economic Forum believes it will be the #3 job skill by 2020).
“Machines are doing more and more of the non-creative jobs which means we need to be the creative, the architect, the strategist in our organizations.”
What are some blindspots that humans possess to innovating and creativity?
Creativity requires that we develop a greater capacity for curiosity. Curiosity is about being interested in the world, in people, and how the world works. It's fundamentally about asking questions of ourselves and others.
Albert Einstein once said that “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask… for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes".
When we start in our jobs we are always asking questions and being curious because we want to develop. Unfortunately the further up the organization we go the more we are expected to have all the answers. The problem with this is that our skills at questioning become weaker. It's like a muscle that becomes weak and flabby! We get good at solving the immediate problems in front of us but we don't take the time to ask those really catalytic questions, those questions which if we found the answer could revolutionize our industry or field.
“So a common blindspot I see in mid-level and some senior leaders is that they have lost the ability to ask curious questions.”
The other day I was giving a masterclass for 80 top corporate lawyers and they were thinking about how to grow their global legal firm. By simply providing them with some creative thinking skills, they were able to quickly identify where the greatest opportunities for growth lay and it also enabled them to tap into their powerful question-asking brains.
How can organizations help build a culture of creativity and innovation at the workplace?
The physical environment in which you work can have a huge impact on how creative an organization is. When I worked in Silicon Valley I was always impressed by how many of the big tech companies based there used everything from the design of their workspaces to the food and drink they gave their employees to influence creativity levels.
“However, building a culture of creativity and innovation starts with developing a sense of psychological safety in the organization. It needs to be OK for people to try things, to experiment, to take calculated risks.”
They say "what is valued in a place is cultivated there". If you want to cultivate creativity then it needs to be valued. This starts with valuing the contribution of everyone in your team and investing in giving them the techniques and tools to do innovative work. It's not good just saying to someone "go be creative". You need to actually design the right environment, the right combination of people, and allow people the space to experiment (and yes sometimes make mistakes).
What are some of the things leaders should stop doing in order to foster innovation in the workplace?
Most companies I see who do any type of brainstorming session or ideation session are getting them wrong. Invariably what happens is the ideas that get taken forward come from the loudest person in the room. There is a real art and skill in facilitating impactful brainstorming sessions and ensuring you are able to generate and develop the best ideas from everyone in your team, regardless of their seniority or job title.
There is a wonderful technique called 'brainwriting' that works especially well if you are in an organization of engineers or very technical people. A marketing person and a software engineer create in different ways, they think through problems and solutions in different ways. So the first thing I'd encourage any manager to do is to look at how those meetings intended for generating, developing and evaluating new ideas are designed.
What do you think a creative workplace of the future would look like?
I think it will be one where SuperCreativity is in everything you do.
“The workplace of the future will be about Human+Machine, using exponential technologies to augment our human creativity and ingenuity.”
The machines, AI and robots will do what they are excellent at; crunching data, analyzing, making recommendations, being tactical. Humans, therefore, need to focus on what we are better at; empathy, creativity, asking questions, thinking strategically. We are already seeing this combination of humans and machines working together to do creative work in the fields of design, marketing, and sales in the aerospace, manufacturing, and financial services industries. I'm very positive about the future.
Don’t miss out the opportunity to engage in a tête-à-tête with James Taylor at TechHR 2019 on 1st and 2nd August 2019 at The Leela Ambience, Gurugram. Register now.