Practicality and Innovation: How to apply practical creativity in your organization

I’m going to explode what may be a common business paradigm – creativity isn’t only for the marketing team.

Creativity is for any department that wants better solutions to whatever they are working on. And obtaining better solutions to your problems is as practical as it gets.

The problem is that so many people are worried about being impractical, of coming up with silly ideas, being ridiculed by co-workers or having an idea that won’t work, that they won’t look at any idea that seems the least bit different.

I have to tell you this – if you want better solutions to your problems, then you need to loosen up. Remember the Swiss watchmakers who thought that their own invention, the digital watch, was just too impractical? They said, “Who would EVER want one of these?” Then the Japanese took the technology and captured a large segment of the watch market. My question is, “Who looked foolish then? The people who ran with the silly idea or the ones who thought digital technology too silly to use?”

According to business guru, Tom Peters, if you want to be truly innovative, you’ve got to be silly. I agree with him.

When you are scared of being silly – or of other people thinking you are silly – then you shut down your idea generator. And you only come up with careful ideas. Cautious ideas.

And usually, careful and cautious ideas aren’t the best ideas.

Many of the best ideas come when people “let go,” get silly and don’t worry about how they look to others and whether an idea is good or not. It doesn’t mean that your ideas can’t have practical applications. But if you don’t entertain what seem like silly or impractical ideas, then you are going to shut out those ideas that could revolutionize your business.

Many years ago, it seemed silly to think of putting a man on the moon. How practical was that? But then a group of people started saying, “If we did put a man on the moon, then how would we do that? What would the step before the spaceship landing on the moon be? And what would the step before that step be?” And one step at a time, they walked into their vision. To me, this is a perfect combination of vision, innovation, and perseverance.

If being silly is just too much for you then there is another side of creativity – one that you might feel more comfortable with. And that involves taking someone else’s “leap” and then changing it to fit your needs. Think of it as small step creativity. This is what Alexander Graham Bell did with the telephone. What the Japanese did with the Swiss watchmaker’s digital timepiece. And what Bill Gates did with DOS and Windows.

If this is something that “fits” you, then you have to prepare your mind. Reading is one key to doing this. Subscribe to magazines outside your field of expertise. Don’t try to become an expert in these fields, just try to discover what interesting things are happening elsewhere. And as you read, ask yourself, “How could this idea be relevant to my business?”

Another way to do build small step creativity is to open the windows and let in some fresh ideas. Invite secretaries and janitors to marketing brainstorming sessions. Ask the marketing team to a finance meeting. Listen with “open” ears to what these outsiders have to say. After all, if Albert Einstein discussed one of his famous theories with his wife (he said it was as much his wife’s contribution as his), then surely we can do this in our own organizations. And when organizations have done this, they’ve had great results when open minds opened windows.

Finally, after coming up with creative ideas, make sure you implement them. Don’t be like a certain organization that will remain nameless. It rewarded people for coming up with the ideas but not for carrying them out. They had lots of ideas. But none of these great ideas made any money for the company because they just sat on the shelf.

Put your great ideas into practise. Design an implementation plan. Work out the bugs. Implement innovation. And that’s about as practical as it comes!

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