Motivation, Creativity and Innovation

I am a strong believer in that every individual on this earth can be creative and that hard focused work beats natural talent in every way.

Personally I get really inspired by observing skillful people come up with amazing and creative ideas. Others may feel rivalry and/or envy. I am not sure why certain people react one way or another but dare I speculate that it insecurity have something to do about it?

I feel confident to say that truly creative people does not feel intimidated or sentimental about their ideas being trumped by better ideas. In fact they encourage it. Because they know competition will inspire and push themselves further. There is nothing to fear if you are humble enough to accept and build on other peoples ideas to find ways to continuously elevate your intellect.

Isaac Newton indicated that innovation is the continuous process of creating value from existing ideas, knowledge and inventions. So it is reasonable to think that most companies want to have motivated employers that are original, think differently and are highly creative. Right. And CEOs should not forget that this is just as important for them as well.

So how do you engage people to be high performing, innovative and creative? I think Dan Pink is spot on.

  • Autonomy: The desire to be self directed.
  • Mastery: The urge to get better at stuff.
  • Purpose: People are happiest when working for something larger than ourselves.

Economical rewards are great. But they stop working as motivator for intellectual work when reaching a certain level – it is a lot better to empower people with freedom to express their creativity.

I have observed that management sometimes carry out this form of hypocrisy, pushing employees in this direction without giving them the freedom to actually start doing it. As an example, do you recognize the following leadership style?

According to Command-and-Conquer, managers-slash-leaders figure out where the business is going to go, and then issue the appropriate orders to their lieutenants to move the business in that direction. Their lieutenants in turn divide up the tasks into smaller chunks and command their reports to implement them. This continues down the org-chart until eventually someone at the bottom actually does some work. In this model, a programmer is a cog in the machine: a typist who carries out one part of management’s orders.

Some businesses actually run this way. You can always tell when you are dealing with such a business, because the person you are talking to is doing something infuriating and senseless, and they know it, and they might even care, but there’s nothing they can do about it.
Joel Spolsky: The Development Abstraction Layer

This is an excellent example of how to efficiently kill motivation and creativity; encouraging a workforce with breaths smelling like urine and an awful way of growing skillful developers.

Visionary people who have learned self-motivation and able to visualize patterns and connect the dots in a conceptual age and converging world will not accept this kind management and will find ways to escape it one way or another.

Leadership is a crucial part in business and military success in the same way as creating a culture of innovation. If innovation does not happen in the organization, your leaders are probably killing it one way or another. For example, only trusting your users to tell you how to run your business.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
Henry Ford

Users know what problem they have, which is important and you should listen to your users. But listening to users *exclusively* will never make you entrepreneurial. Steve Jobs told customers what they wanted instead of asking for feedback. And before i forget – Henry Ford built cars…

What will happen if peoples ideas are rejected over and over again, maybe because their leaders does not trust them? They will quickly stop sharing them because clearly their ideas are worthless to the company.

But lets assume that you have a lot of creative people with mind blowing, innovative and relevant ideas.

It takes almost as much creativity to understand a good idea as to have it in the first place.
Alan Kay

Having wonderful ideas is not enough. If you have to spend just as much time to convince people of the idea as on the idea themselves there will be no innovation left at the end of the day. Leaders must realize that innovation is fragile and must actively try to find and encourage it. Stakeholders must also accept risk and communicate that failure is expected and not punish failures.

At the same time – execution is critical. Ideas are not useful if they are irrelevant to business or if you cannot make reality out of them. It is important to build excellent teams that are able take an idea and work with it.

If you give a good idea to a mediocre group, they’ll screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a good group, they’ll fix it. Or they’ll throw it away and come up with something else.
Ed Catmull, Pixar: Keep Your Crises Small

This is why people should be allowed to work on the things that motivates them. Motivation is of course not a guarantee for success. But with a good ideas, passion and dreams your chances for success increase drastically since individuals will be way more productive and caring than on average. Ignore this and you may find your co-workers spending most of their time at the coffee machine or surfing the web instead of doing incredible work.

Some say “ignorance is bliss” and I guess they are right. But I do not want to take the easy way out… My brain is simply allergic to ignorance.

Fish rot from the head as do organisations. Remember that.

Reference: Motivation, Creativity and Innovation from our JCG partner Kristoffer Sjogren at the deephacks blog.

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