They say disruption can have both negative and positive effects, so what impact has the pandemic had on organisational creativity? That was the question asked by the US based consulting researchers, Marysia Czarski and Laura Barbero Switalski.
They spoke to 22 corporate leaders across North and Central America and Europe from a wide variety of industries to determine what, if any, impact the 2020 worldwide phenomenon had on creativity and innovation.
Their findings provide some key insights into how we can harness these challenges to drive creativity across our organisations. But they also point to the challenges that staff encountered in their objective to maintain their productivity.
The authors used a Creative Change Model (1) to help frame the interview process and drew attention to three elements that enable creativity: that is
The Person- the individual or team who bring their skills, knowledge, experience and motivation to create results.
The Process- that interacts with the person using thinking stages, tools and methods to develop solutions in response to the challenges posed.
The Environment- both the physical and the psychological environment, whether it be the workplace and the culture in which we live. The environment can both facilitate and inhibit the creative outcome and points to the importance of leadership practices in creating conditions.
The summary indicates that people, process and environment work together as a system for creativity. This system needs to become part of a strategy that is applied everyday to work, at work.
Take Home Message
In time of crisis, and under the right conditions, people can step up and give their best to produce creative results, rallying together and focusing on a common cause. By the same token, the pressure at work has been as high as ever, limiting human capacity for creativity.
Take Home Message
A well-defined, focused process with role clarity is critical for success in an organisation’s innovation efforts. On the upside, the Covid-19 disruption has helped to change old assumptions about the way things ‘are done around here’ and challenge and shift paradigms, leading to new, agile ways of working. On the downside, time to reflect and learn from these wins, including more structured and deliberate creative process, seems to be needed to continue to push the boundaries of new thinking something that is essential in order to thrive in a world that continues to rapidly change.
Take Home Message
While organisations for the most part have adapted to a remote environment to get a lot of the task-oriented aspects of their work done, some have struggled to understand how to continue to create the conditions for creative work to thrive in the new digital environment. There are dimensions in an organisation’s environment that, when present, will enhance creative output and if absent or diminished, will hinder creative flow.
The research points to five critical conditions to sustain organisational creativity: (2)
- Leaders need to become more intentional about the creative process itself. They need to maintain a working climate that allows creativity to flourish through trust, autonomy, diversity of thinking, risk taking and tolerance for failure.
- When people know their work has a worthwhile impact on the lives of others, they feel the power of meaningful accomplishment and their motivation to be creative fires up. Purpose driven mandates, coupled with a clearly communicated strategy, are critical to unleashing the creative leadership of people in complex organizations.
- Investing in people’s well-being and developing their creative thinking skills helps strengthen their ability to cope with any crisis. As they become more resilient, they can apply their imagination to turning challenges into opportunities.
- Managing the polarity between Efficiency and Originality, Exploitation and Exploration, is critical to innovation. This means prioritizing efforts, executing plans with discipline and agility, and envisioning and exploring new strategic directions.
- he pandemic crisis has demonstrated that the creative interaction of People, Process and Environment is critical to innovation. Organizational creativity is achieved through the combination of all these ingredients. When leaders are deliberate in applying creativity through the people’s qualities they nurture, the process they use and the work environment they shape, innovation excels and succeeds. This is best maximized long term in person, however, is achievable in a remote environment.
The report concludes with recommendations that are the key areas for investment that aim to enhance leadership skills to drive change, develop internal capacity to build the creative problem solving process and build creative learning mindsets to strengthen both the individual and the organisation’s resilience and resourcefulness.
I highly recommend reading the full report to gain more insights into this fascinating and relevant research.
1. The Creative Change Model Source 2005, Puccio, Murdock and Mance
2. Switalski, L.B and Czarski, M. The Covid-19 Pandemic Transformed Organizational Creativity How might we sustain it? , 2021 page 10.