Using creativity to move from incremental to rapid evolution

In this blog Dave Hall of The Ideas Centre Group looks at the impact creativity can have on achieving rapid evolution in your organisation.

For decades up to this day, change programmes have focused on Continuous Improvement (CI) as the primary tool to drive improvement within organisations: Statistical Process Control from the 1920's, Total Quality Management from the 80's, into Lean and then Six Sigma bringing us up to date. Suggestion schemes have developed and flourished as primary drivers for idea generation, and the simplicity and elegance of incremental improvement has become embedded as a cultural tool for organisational evolution.

And wonderful though it is, CI has a fundamental failing - focusing on incremental change of the way that an organisation does things - solidly based on "how we do things round here," or the "world of what is" i.e. more of the same, but better.

Lots of small improvements certainly add up, but they do not transform, failing to challenge the systems and beliefs that are locked into the very heart of their world of what is. As a result, we inevitably get trapped in "more of the same thing," trapped by an atmosphere of convention and tradition.

What we need to drive true transformation is a mechanism to challenge that locked-in thinking, breaking free from the world of what is, going in pursuit of a parallel universe where things are transformed - demanding a complete change of thinking.

And at the very heart of the transformation process lies creativity - simply defined as the generation of ideas that are both novel and useful.

The word novel is key here, and somewhat pragmatically simply means "something that the problem or challenge owner had not thought of before," and useful means that they can see how to take that novel idea and actually make it work!

The result is a step function or dis-continuous change - something different rather than incrementally better. If such ideas are delivered on a regular basis, then we have Rapid Evolution.

Now, we as adults are brilliant at useful, as such ideas are based on past evidence, effectively hard-wired in the brain, and rapid to access. Novel ideas, by contrast, are slow to generate because they are new ideas that we have never had before and demand new connections in the brain. Asked for a creative idea, we quickly generate a useful idea which will then drive continuous improvement; as it comes from a safe place in our brain, comfortably based on "how we do things round here," we then reject any attempt top reverse novelty into it...and hence we get an incremental improvement, or CI - incremental evolution.

What we need to drive transformation is a mechanism to manage the brain - to switch off the rapid firing useful ideas to give the brain time to make those new connections that generate novelty. And that is precisely the function of the creativity techniques. These techniques structure the thinking to reverse the ideation process - starting with novel then making it useful, rather than attempting the reverse (which is simply doomed to fail).

Numerous creativity techniques exist - all geared to generate novel ideas which then morph into novel and useful. Once you understand the process that underpins them, breaking free from the constraints of convention and tradition, then the logic of the process for each becomes clear.

However, be aware that conventional and traditional techniques cannot be used to escape from convention and tradition; the techniques must be un-conventional and un-traditional...appearing to be strange (if not simply weird!) simply because they make the brain work in different ways - essential if we are to generate ideas that challenge the conventional world of what is. These techniques are specifically designed to mess with the brain, to disturb the comfort of the world of what is; and of course, if you afind this approach too weird...simply stay with "more of the same," convention and tradition delivered through Continuous Improvement.

The best solution is to work with both continuous and discontinuous improvement - transforming incremental evolution into rapid evolution - the best of both worlds, delivering transformational thinking on demand!

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