Jay Chopra: Taking the radical approach to navigate change
Rediscovering creativity can be a stepping stone to success, write Jay Chopra & Anne Mahler
“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learned. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and, where appropriate, profits.” – Dr Edward de Bono
The business world is rapidly changing, so rapidly that every day we wake up with challenges we have never encountered before. How can we ensure that we rise to the challenge of this constant change and proactively create the future of work, instead of being sucked into the vortex of the post-Covid world? The answer is by nurturing and harnessing radical creativity.
The problem is, however, that creativity is perceived as an intangible concept that lacks proper definition and is difficult to operationalise. In our work, we define creativity as the habit of thinking differently to generate ideas, both big and small, that have business value. This business value can reach from a brand-new product idea, to a new HR practice, to safety improvements on a manufacturing site.
As children, we are very creative and think expansively, but many of us lose this innate ability when we are taught to think more rationally and reductively in education, and at work. We start to default to the unproductive habit of thinking “harder.” Thinking harder does not lead to creativity, but to frustration when we are unable to come up with the new solutions required. We need to have the courage to think differently if we want to embrace radical creativity.
To be radically creative, we need to reach a level of absurdity and apparent irrelevance in our thinking; ideas that are so far out there, they do not seem to have a direct connection with the challenge that requires solving.
Let’s look at an example: an airline wants to increase revenue. In a brainstorm meeting, a colleague suggests putting seats on the wings of the airplanes. An absurd idea, right? Before judging too soon, let’s embrace this level of absurdity. Of course, it is impossible to put actual seats on the wings, but what is the key concept of the idea? No screaming children? Now, let’s ask ourselves how else this key concept could be achieved: adult-only flights?
By using these two simple steps, we have come up with an idea that arguably, we would not have come up with by simply thinking harder, and it is realistic to implement and offers a competitive edge.
To help further define how to nurture and operationalise radical creativity, we need to embrace the following five creative habits:
Indicating is the practice of clearly stating what stage of the creative process we are currently in (expansive or reductive). Most conflict in the creative process arises when there is no clear indication if we are in the expansive or reductive phase, as these opposite thinking styles cannot happen at the same time.
To develop radically creative ideas, we need to break out of our habitual thought processes. Provoke your thinking by using creativity tools, stepping away from your desk and going for a walk, or by talking it out with a colleague that thinks differently to you.
Fuelling is all about growing and nurturing ideas to explore their potential. Instead of judging ideas too soon and thinking reductively, make sure to spend some time exploring every idea until it is developed into a full concept. The key is to create an environment where ideas have a chance to grow and develop instead of getting shot down prematurely.
Where do you have your best ideas? Whatever your answer might be, it most likely will not be “At my desk!” But why is that? At work, our brains are in busy beta brainwaves. However, to be truly creative, we need to access our creative alpha brainwaves. This can be achieved by playing, relaxing, laughing, or repetitive actions. Do not be afraid to step away from your desk and let go.
And speaking of not being afraid, have the courage to think absurdly and be radically creative. Courage is about consistently reaching outside your comfort zone and taking calculated risks to make a shift happen. Have the courage to speak up and share your ideas, and also have the courage to listen to other people’s ideas. Sounds a little too risky? Start small and slowly build your courage muscle by practicing taking calculated risks on small things before jumping into the deep end.
By following these five creative behaviours, you will be able to nurture and operationalise radical creativity in a way that will help you navigate change better. It will also foster collaboration within your organisation, drive innovation culture, and allow for more organisational agility. Let radical creativity become an integral part of your workday and see for yourself.
■ Jay Chopra is an IMI Associate faculty member and Managing Director of Making Shift Happen, a boutique organisational development consultancy, focused on improving performance by making work more human. Anne Mahler is the Academy Lead and Organisational Development consultant at Making Shift Happen.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on 7th July, 2022. Click here to read it online.