Facilitation is a word that Ije Nwokorie, Managing Director at Wolff Olins (international brand consultancy), uses with pride. He sees it as one of today’s most important management skills. So he made it his mission to make it something that Wolff Olins would become famous for, and he’s well on the way to achieving this. Ije recently led the internal development at the agency towards a structure that allows for “inevitable collaboration” and self-managing teams. It’s an unconventional approach that has turned a lot of traditional theory on its head. He has put an ‘un-‘ in front of the words management, leadership and risk to create a more chaotic/less regimented, but rewarding and inventive environment.
Serendipity is a word we see around a lot these days, not least because the web now tends to play a big part in it. It’s used to describe a “happy accident” – the link that you happen to click on that leads you to that article; the random person that pops up on Twitter who then helps you to spark a great new idea.
“I am encouraged by the potential that artists and designers have to make real changes in the world. Artists and designers have a powerful role in this expansive universe – to take all of the complexity and make sense of it on a human scale”
John Maeda in The Design of Business
Between 2009 and 2012, Danish organisation, the Centre for Cultural and Experience Economy (CKO) provided grants to a range of companies to enable them to work with creative partners. They have now published a review of the funded projects – Creative Competitive Advantage (.pdf) – which demonstrates brilliantly how businesses can explore new potential when bringing in external creative expertise.
In my last post “The messiness of creativity“, I looked at how organisations need to get comfortable with chaos in order to innovate, particularly when bringing diverse people together. This is difficult when they also need to become more productive and efficient as they grow.
A few weeks back, Jonah Lehrer did a talk at the RSA to present his new book “Imagine: How Creativity Works”. In the book, Lehrer aims to shed some light on creativity – often thought of as magical – to debunk the myth that it is the preserve of the chosen few. By taking a neuroscientific approach, he looks to identify the patterns, environments and situations that encourage creativity to make it more widely understood.
Do you want an outlet to exercise your thinking and play with creative ideas? A hackathon-inspired event could be the answer. Hackathons (also called ‘hack days’) are 24-48 hour events where developers come together to produce a mobile or web app in response to a brief or problem. Although hack days tend to be technology-oriented, there are also events that encourage multi-disciplinary teams, inviting other creative producers and thinkers to contribute their skills in problem-solving and making.
A couple of weeks back, I attended the Leancamp unconference, an event with various sessions that covered Lean Startup, a term developed by Eric Ries in his book of the same title. The premise of Lean Startup is that entrepreneurs get their products to market quickly and cheaply, test it with their customers, get feedback and then iterate and develop it further.
The more I listened, the more I realised that Lean Startup is a philosophy as much as a process. It’s a discovery process used to adapt your business’ route as you learn more about what your customers want. Lean Startup is about ensuring that what you intend to sell is what people need. It is about finding the most effective way of achieving your overall mission, rather than working towards a pre-defined product. As Salim Virani, co-founder of Leancamp quoted: “find your customer where they are, not where you want them to be”.
If you’re struggling to develop interesting new products and services, stop thinking about the ideas that you’re producing and think more about the process that you’re using. To produce different outcomes, you may need to work in a completely different way (as Albert Einstein said, “insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”). Be more entrepreneurial in your approach and try ‘effectuation’ (or effectual reasoning), a concept identified by Dr. Saras Sarasvathy when she studied the habits of successful entrepreneurs.
The benefits of working with those outside of your organisation to help you to innovate are widely promoted, but if you have never engaged in open innovation it can be quite a daunting prospect. The Open Innovation – challenges and solutions conference held at the British Library recently aimed to look at the practical aspects of larger organisations working with (creative) SMEs.