In today's fast-paced business world, how can we slow down enough
to do the hard work that creativity and innovation requires?
According to Steve Gottlieb, of VisionMining, a great barrier to
corporate creativity and innovation occurs because of our culture
operates with what he calls "speed addiction."
Using photography as a tool to demonstrate how "speed addiction"
(among many other things) interferes with creative and innovative
output in business, Gottlieb put individuals through a series of
hands-on exercises to experience how to work in a more creative
way, both as an individual and as a team. Workshop participants
take a series of photos (using either a simple point-and-shoot
camera or a cell phone). In one exercise, they are asked to take a
memorable photo by looking for fresh perspectives.
"Participants explore how we approach problems, how we work with
one another, and how leaders can lead to maximize the number of
creative ideas and practical innovations within their
organizations," says Gottlieb.
Leaders talk a lot about out-of-the-box thinking. However, Gottlieb
notes that saying that you have an objective doesn't make it
happen, and the question still remains: How do you turn that
objective into reality? "Speed addiction has incredible power to
dictate how people work, and at the same time, speed addiction runs
counter to generating creativity and innovation," adds Gottlieb.
"In our workplace, there are several sources of our speed
addiction," he explains. "The idea that time equals money is one of
the origins of speed addiction. Working through all kinds of daily
problems on the job often requires speed. Understandably, we are
often asked to 'take fast action' and 'make fast decisions.'
Frequently, we see those who are rewarded and promoted as the
fastest thinkers among us. Also, we love feeling productive, and
when we work fast we feel productive."
Yet coming up with creative and useful ideas is never easy, because
doing so requires an intense amount of thought, reflection,
experimentation, collaboration, and generally some false starts. It
involves doing what the mind finds hardest?dealing with new stuff.
According to Gottlieb, even using the word creativity is a problem
in itself. Many associate creativity with photographers,
architects, painters, writers, and musicians. This is misleading
because there is creativity in every field.
"Many people also feel that creativity is some God-given thing
you're born with or something that is in your genetic makeup," he
says. "The creative process is very much a progression that can be
learned with practice. Almost everyone who studies creativity
agrees with this [sentiment]."
Since speed addiction is antithetical to the creative process. How
do we undo our addiction and apply the kind of habits, attitudes,
and approaches that bring greater creativity and innovation to
problems and challenges? In his workshop, Gottlieb presents
students with an object and asks them not to pick up their camera
or cell phone immediately, but rather to study the object and think
about it because "if your camera immediately comes up to your eye,
a predictable solution comes to your head right away. That solution
then becomes stuck and your creativity is dampened?speed won't let
you contemplate a new direction," he says.
It's not enough to just say, "I want out-of-the-box thinking."
According to Gottlieb, if you want to change people's mindsets and
behavior, it takes more than generalities. There are specific
techniques to push people to change their existing mindset and
behaviors. You have to get them off of autopilot. Gottlieb asks
participants to look at the person sitting next to them, then to
think of what they saw. He then asks them to look at that person
again, more slowly and more intensely, to see everything they
didn't see originally.
The first key to undoing any addiction is to become conscious of
the addiction, Gottlieb says. "I let participants know that I'm the
slowest guy in the room when it comes to taking a picture," he
adds. "Leaders need to inspire by being role models. Whenever a
student takes extra time and gets good results they get my praise.
There are reward systems in many organizations, but I don't think
many people hear, 'I love the way you sat in the meeting and just
thought.' That doesn't happenbut it should."
Gottlieb advises everyone to take the time to think about solutions
to challenges. "We've all had the experience where all of a sudden
something in the back of our mind, that's been percolating, gets
our attention and solutions come to us," he says. "Whenever
possible, leaders should give employees incubation time to solve a
problem. People need to get back in touch with the way they
approached things as a child by using imagination, openness, new