Your web-browser is very outdated, and as such, this website may not display properly. Please consider upgrading to a modern, faster and more secure browser. Click here to do so.
I spent the last 10 years working IN and WITH the creative industry in China with a fair amount of my time spent in teaching design to Chinese students. In essence I dedicated my time to transform young Chinese adults into creative thinkers… and unlike what you may think, it is no easy task. Heading a design school, its 600 Chinese students and 35 international member of faculty does eventually teach you a think or two about the very concept of unlocking Innovation through creativity and I am here to share with you my experience.
The first and most important learning I would like to share with you, although I suspect you already know this: there is a step to be taken between theories and their applications. This step requires a huge commitment by the corporate decision makers and comes with a cost. Nothing gets done in business without going through the motion of analysing the cost, get it approved and ultimately implement change with a long term , sustained vision… That however, is possibly the single most important factor of failure. It is easy to identify what needs to be done, less so to start implementing.
Similarly the 90‘ies where all about employee’s training, the 2000’s were announced at the Design Thinking era and now “innovation”. Each decade brings us a new sense of evolution of things. So what does “innovation” means in today’s business context?
Innovation is the “secret sauce” of business success, according to Harvard Business Review. Consulting giant McKinsey says that a company’s ability to innovate has become “the core driver of growth, performance, and valuation.” If you do not believe me, open a business newspaper or website and read the daily articles about the soon to be downfall of Apple due to its current lack of “innovation”.
Interestingly enough with this example is the assumption that innovation is an object where in fact the object is only the physical representation of a creative process. Innovation is about thoughts and answers to “situations”. I do not like to talk about problem solving, it is too 1990’s and using the term “Challenge” implies that such process occurs only to meet negative occurrences on life. Situations on the other hand implies anytime, anywhere, positive and negative because innovation “just happens”.
The second and extremely important facet of innovation justifies all of your presence here today and the very fact that this forum exists: Innovation is People! People innovate not companies ! Companies support innovation, foster innovation, cultivate innovation…but only People innovate. Although it may sound evident, it greatly clarifies the role of a company and therefore HR in the innovative process.
A company is a structure which should bring the means to allow People to innovate.
The new Talent Manager is there to identify and ensure that People take full use of opportunities to innovate. the myth of the lone genius achieving one eureka after another in a closed room is a cartoonish. There’s growing understanding that real breakthrough comes from people doing the hard work of innovation together, mixing their ideas
I propose the categorisation of innovation in the workplace through 3 creative aspects bringing a new dimension to the role and duties of HR
The Creative People: The new nomads.
BY creative people I do not mean those working in advertising or other creative industry, I refer to what we know as “knowledge worker”. The Millennial Employee have a distinctive sets of values and expectations from its employer and colleagues in general. The very nature of our work environment, duties and even tools have dramatically changed the way we live our relationship to work.
People aspires for more “freedom” in their completion of tasks. We know what need to be done and when it needs to be completed by; however we want to have to freedom to organise our time around these constraints. Where we work, How long we take and When it happens is expected to be left to our own judgment. We are embracing a more nomadic way of working which allows us to re-organize the relationship between our private and professional life. Allowing such freedom makes sense in an innovation perspective since we are yet to find ways to “control” bursts of creativity… we know it happens , we just do not know when and where.
The question is how to “manage” this freedom as a company, especially in a legal environment where timekeeping and recording is such an important must-have.
The Creative Space:
Buildings and the configuration, design and management of space can both constrain and support the exchange of ideas and the flow of knowledge. The challenge for a firm to grow and prosper, is to have the ability to capture, share and innovate from that knowledge. Survey’s on most desirable employers always outline unique working places; think google, facebook, apple, linkedin… Obviously it takes more than a few flashy colors or speciality chairs to make a space prone to creativity.
First and foremost we need to remember that creativity is not a lone process, it emerges from exchanges between people, from ideas being thrown around. The first step to make a creative space is to make it social. It builds trust, especially important when teams are doing intense work. Open and relaxed areas for informal conversations are critical components for successful innovation spaces.
Make the space collaborative, flexible and blended
Innovation spaces need to be reconfigurable to support spontaneity: switches between different work modes, the dynamic flow of information, tools that come and go. Through a blended approach a company does help make the space more inspiring.
The Creative Culture: Employer Branding
Innovation comes for creativity and we have seen that both people and space are of utmost importance. However if your company does not believe in this ethos, does not live by it throughout it’s business process, then we are merely talking about cosmetic changes which do not generate traction and acceptance. Having a creative culture means that an organization welcomes healthy debate and discourage premature judgment and chronic criticism.
Creative cultures respect deviance. True innovation always involves deviation from norms, however most organzations tend to punish actions that deviate from the norm. Creative cultures promote exploration and experimentation because they now that status quo and routine lead nowhere near innovation.They give employees permission to be creative and make good mistakes—strong efforts and bad results.
When asked what I think Beijing will look like in 2022, my first immediate answer was “not much”, then the thought of a megapolis “a la” blade runner did cross my mind. After all landing in shanghai in late PM strangely resembles coruscant in star wars already. If you are a fan of science-fiction this may make you “dream” but the harsh reality is that in neither cases it is a place I would want to live in.
The fast expansion of Beijing’s landscape is nothing but admirable and extremely scary because it goes hand-in-hand with the ever faster pace consumerism experienced by the Chinese society. People want more, faster, some would argue faster than our western counterparts. There is a sense of depravation which needs to be filled. However as we know, there is a thing as too much of a good thing. And here lies the key to a strong argument for and against, some say China should listen to the west who knows better because they have gone through this phase while other suggest that China should be allowed to make its own mistakes, especially since it needs to catch up and the west does not seem to stop anyway.
When it comes to consumerism, two predominant factors should be taking into consideration as pushers of this hunger: normalization of sustainability and planned obsolescence.
My generation and the ones after have been told so much about sustainability and the problems we are facing, we learned to recognize what we should be doing, what we should be buying. We look for the recycled logo, the “sustainable” brand, the socially responsible purchase. Because we see our choices as righteous we then purchase and consume. After all, as long as it is recyclable, it is acceptable. What we forget is that the entire production process (before and after) should be taken under consideration. In some case the right choice is not glass but plastic as long as we keep it out landfills. Sustainability has been normalized, we think we understand it and we marvel at work done with trash (sarcasm) without actually considering what it is: Trash and what it shouldn’t be: existing.
In the age of technology and thanks to moores’ law, we know for a fact that our purchases will be obsolete within 6 months to 8 months of us getting it. We know today what will be the technology of tomorrow and the day after. We also assume that it will be obsolete very fast after its release. This lead companies to launch products with a much shorter life spam than before. If we know that tomorrow’s phone camera will be twice as powerful as the one today, it makes business sense to calibrate today’s product to fail on time for the next release, for the next purchase. Some may argue that technological advancement cannot be stopped, which is fair, but can its planning be rethought to best suit our needs.
More devastating than the physical planned obsolescence comes the psychological one which drives consumerism to levels never attained before. Fashion used to be a seasonal change. With the introduction of fast fashion, changes occur on a monthly basis, pushing sales and of course wastes. Across all areas of our daily life we experience this need for the newest: the computer, the newest phone, the newest car, the newest fashion, the latest trend magazine… This is our primal drive.
What does it mean for Beijing? At this pace more shops, more buildings, more cars, more annoyances and a possible future which may very well be one of these clustered nightmare found in the best sci-fi movies; unless the society matures and decides to fight extinction.
Page 1 of 17