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Promote Creativity, Prosper from Success

An exclusive.

CHICAGO — Several key factors contribute to the success of any organization, and one of the major deciding elements is creativity.

Organizations that will survive into the future will not be those with the most revenue, but those that apply creativity from the grass roots level, the workforce. If a leader is going to leave anything to an organization after he or she departs, it should be a group of individuals who take steps to achieve and promote a creative environment.

The behavior of its leaders will make an organization accountable or not. Without the promotion of creativity, long-term organizational success can never be achieved, a sobering statistical truth.

If things are going well in your organization, if employees are invested in their work, then your organization is headed in the right direction.

Employees must be able to contribute ideas freely and without fear of losing their jobs, and their leaders must be able to listen (if you haven’t already, take a look at last month’s column, Listen Up!).

If management devotes as much time to promoting ideas as trying to figure out how to survive, then your organization is on the right track. On the other hand, if your workforce isn’t called to be involved in the life of the organization and thinks it’s a terrible place to work, there’s a good chance this is the fault of its leaders.

Leadership behavior is the single most important factor in determining whether employees who work for the organization will ever truly be creative. The capital resources, the best distribution systems, the best products don’t demonstrate creativity. No, it is demonstrated by the leaders’ ability to stimulate fair and open communication. None of it makes any difference if leaders don’t support the employees’ ability to suggest improvement.

To solve any challenges, your organization should tackle them from the bottom up. Employees see things that leaders take for granted.

If you consider yourself a leader, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself, “I wonder what the employees think of what I am doing now. What do they think of what I approved or endorsed?” You may be surprised by the answers. Simply put, implementing ideas coming from the workforce is instrumental to the success—short-term and long-term—of any organization.

Only one future is likely for the company that fails to develop ideas or approach problem solving from the grass roots level: eventual collapse.

The odds of creating a break-through product idea that will meet the organization’s marketplace objectives are statistically 1 in 100. On average, fewer than 25% of product proposals become a reality if the ideas come from the top down. Product ideas stimulated from the ground up have a greater chance of success. This creative balance also goes a long way in boosting morale.

Most new-product ideas are merely line extensions. By evaluating new ideas negatively and failing to envision the actual concept, organizations become skilled at making versions of someone else’s initiative. Consumer views of these efforts are dim at best, and the product will languish. But, if the consumer knows where the idea came from—the grass roots level, I hope—then the product has a greater chance of success.

When workers are encouraged to be creative, organizations reap the benefits. This represents true teamwork, with the coach and team being on the same playing field. Leaders need to be on the field, not in the press box.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].