Innovation : Leading by creating value

jim Jim Murray is CEO of Optimal Solutions International, a company that specializes in helping organizations reach their full potential. 

Amongst many other things, Jim offers the program “Smart Leaders: Thinking and Innovation Skills for the 21st Century”.

For details, see

What's wrong with this picture ?

In the last several years, you've taken your organization through the mandatory rightsizing, restructuring and reconfiguring exercise. You're more keenly focused on the customer and total quality management is the mantra. You're doing more with less and you're doing it better. But the costs associated with these seemingly unavoidable changes are also increasingly evident – your people are more productive but they are not necessarily more creative. They're more multidimensional in what they can do, but they're also stretched, stressed, tired and demoralized. Worse, so are you. What's wrong with this picture ?

The pursuit of efficiency – also known as faster, better, cheaper – is not the same as adding or creating value. To be efficient and efficacious in the use of resources, including human resources, is to extract more value from existing assets. In a more efficient organization, value creation can only result from nurturing creativity

What is the next plateau of change for your organization ? How do you make it even more competitive than it is ? How do you now better equip your people to survive and thrive in the new global, knowledge economy ? In an age of speed, complexity and too much information, how do you design a future of choice ? When further change seems next to impossible, how do you design the impossible and overcome inertia and aversion to risk ?

Invest in Creativity

The solution, I believe, lies in an investment in creativity – that is, training your workforce to embrace the precepts of creative problem solving and innovative thinking. Teaching them how to work smarter, not harder. Showing them how to use ambiguity, limited resources, imagination and, yes, even change itself to augment your organization's competitive advantage.

Will your employees be willing learners, eager to respond ? Absolutely. Because creativity is an attitude more than a skill. Properly presented, they will quickly see that it applies as much to enhancing their life as their job. Especially in a world of incessant change, unpredictability and rising expectations.

Exploit ambiguity

In downsizing exercises, most companies demand more of their workers while giving less – hardly a message that leads to creative and committed employees. Numerous studies clearly indicate that job satisfaction and the opportunity for personal growth are more highly motivating than is the pay cheque. Leaders who believe that "keeping your job" is an inducement to creating value are misguided.

Lean and mean impoverishes the organization's creativity and ultimately its growth (if not its survival capacity). In times of uncertainty, those organizations which flourish will know how to exploit ambiguity and emergent opportunities. They will have an inner confidence borne of the aptitude and (and thus the inclination) to solve problems and turn adversity to advantage. The resilience and creativity of the workforce will be a bankable, strategic asset. The key attitudinal change on the part of senior management lies in viewing training in creative problem solving as an investment in the future of the business rather than a discretionary expense.

Today's CEO

It is no longer sufficient to just run an organization; today's CEO must transform it and build in the flexibility and focus needed to creatively respond to change. In the hyper-competitive global economy, re-engineering will soon become passé; reinvention will be the route to survival and success. Doing more with less is an exercise in finding efficiency. Doing more with more is really what energizes employees to create genuine value. And that is the real recipe for growth and profitability.

© Copyright 2007 Jim Murray

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