In the age of hyper-competitiveness, there is always a push on the leaders to make their organization stand out in the clutter. It is very easy to understand as a concept but difficult to put it in practice. This is not to say that a me-too brand doesn’t succeed. However, all of us know why Apple makes a lot of money, why Google is reverred as a search engine, why 3M products stand out, how Amazon has revolutionalized shopping and so on.
I wonder how can a leader promote creativity in a large organization in a way that the products and services not only get delivered in a reliable way but also they consistently bring out something new that sticks in the market. I think, one promotes creativity only when one connects the dots and creates an agenda. Maverick leaders did wonders on this aspect. They didn’t necessarily hold focus group discussions and market research to build something new. They said, customers do not know what they need! Of course, there are many who did things in a very structured manner and some did by pleasant accidents. I think, one can bring out continuous improvements by structured approaches. However, a quantum leap is possible only when one is able to observe seemingly unrelated events, see patterns in them and apply them to one’s own domain of work. This calls for reflective style of learning, intellectual ability, humility and the right physical and mental environment to reflect and create something new. There have been immense examples in history as well as our mythology which tells us how connecting the dots is important to be a creative leader.
Secondly, I think, it’s a lot of self-belief that makes someone step out of one’s comfort zone, challenge existing beliefs and norms, make changes to something which is running well in the market. This self-belief stems from the fact that the leader feels safe to run pilots and experiments. At times, it is the lack of rewards and recognition which deter someone from taking the risk of stepping out of the comfort zone. Sometimes it is the lack of executive sponsorship that prevents the magic which could have otherwise happened. In essence, it is giving a shape to an idea that emerges in one’s mind. The first step of giving a shape is self-belief; then follow the steps of selling the idea to many others, carving out a niche to run a pilot, planning the nuts and bolts and so on.
And finally, it is sweating out the details to do a fine execution : doing things fast, doing things right, making course-corrections, leading the change oneself, stretching the limits to make sure that the new product or the service as an idea enthuses all the internal stakeholders, recognising the progress and driving the change in the marketplace. So, it takes a lot of planning, internal and external communication, establishing the metrics, tracking them rigorously, score-carding the progress and sustaining the momentum. That’s the usual schedule of a leader, but what makes it difficult is to run the new projects alongside the business which needs to run as usual.
The leader has to find adequate resources; the most important being the intent and the time to demonstrate creativity, bring out creative solutions to the market. Focus and devotion makes the journey meaningful. Getting it done!