Creativity At Work: Not Just For Advertising Execs
by Erica Driver.
I picked up a book at the airport last week because 1) It had a pretty cover, and 2) The title was Juicing The Orange: How To Turn Creativity Into A Powerful Business Advantage. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between the stuff that information and knowledge management (I&KM) pros are doing at work and the business movement toward organizations that are creative and have a heavy emphasis on innovation and design. Juicing The Orange turned out to be about lessons learned specifically in the advertising industry — not exactly my area of expertise. But I couldn’t put it down! Many of the points authors Pat Fallon and Fred Senn raise are directly applicable to the efforts I&KM pros are undertaking — especially those who are or who work directly with HR, chief design officers, or other "culture players," as they are described in Juicing The Orange. In particular:
- Start from scratch when you’re trying to create something new. If you don’t, you could get stuck in the mindsets of those who went before you. The authors made this point about advertising campaigns. But we are all marketers, to some extent. We are marketing collaboration or Information Workplace strategies to prospective executive sponsors, or selling to information workers the benefits of swapping out beloved point collaboration products with an enterprise collaboration platform. Fresh thinking may be critical here. How about a brainstorming session to come up with a list of non-obvious ways to apply collaboration technology to specific business problems and to convince the powers that be to make the human capital investments needed to move the company toward a culture of innovation? It’s probably a good idea to separate the brainstorming conversation from the "yeah, but. . ." conversation.
- Work on an internal culture where people are allowed to act on their passion for an idea. This will become an increasingly important truth in business as companies continue to focus on top-line revenue growth through innovation. (In one example, in August of 2007 Pricewaterhouse Coopers published the results of its quarterly Consumer Products Barometer survey, in which the company found that senior executives of large consumer products companies raised their companies’ revenue growth targets for the coming 12 months to an average of 6.3%, up from a reported 4.8% in 1Q 2007, and on par with projections a year prior (6.2%).) I&KM pros should approach collaboration and Social Computing tools as tools for enabling innovation, for connecting people who might not ordinarily interact with each other. This is the digital equivalent of one of the Juicing The Orange authors’ traditions (he is a co-founder of advertising agency Fallon Worldwide): he invites 19 staff members to his home for dinner each month — people he thinks ought to know each other better. In case you’re wondering, the number of guests is based on the number of chairs he has.
- Prioritize getting buy-in at the top — perhaps from a sponsor you hadn’t thought of. The way they put it in Juicing The Orange: A creative idea never has a chance to thrive if the executive suite doesn’t approve it, and leaps of faith must be supported. Sometimes, collaboration strategy teams are required to come up with a solid business case for investment in a collaboration platform, or specific tools. Other times, this is not required; the powers that be simply believe. They believe in the necessity of tools and technology to connect people and transform the organization. One golden nugget I gleaned from this book: perhaps the executive sponsor for an enterprise collaboration strategy or an Information Workplace shouldn’t necessarily be the CIO or even a line of business or functional head — perhaps it should be the chief innovation officer or chief design officer.
- Identify culture players and distribute them throughout the organization. According to Juicing The Orange, culture players know everyone and know a lot about everyone. They are outgoing, optimistic problem solvers who treat everyone with the same "loving irreverence." We have talked in some of our Forrester research about the knowledge trainer role. (See IBM’s Collaboration Platform For 2007 and see How To Create A Knockout Collaboration Strategy Document.) The most recent job title I’ve heard for this role is "personal knowledge trainer." The person in this role sits in the business units and is closely connected with IT. It is someone who is responsible for building up the culture of collaboration or knowledge sharing or social networking. It may or may not be a full-time job. Identify culture players who understand the value of collaboration technology and recruit them to fill the knowledge trainer role.