Corporate that fail to innovate are getting beaten by competitors who understand the value of ongoing improvement and invention.
Continued success means continual improvement by staying competitive. The only way corporate can stay ahead is to continually create new products, new services and new ways of doing things. The way to achieve that is through the employee ingenuity.
Unfortunately, is not easy to encourage employee to achieve those ideal achievements. Based on the assessment result from the PPM Human Resources Assessment Division, the initiative and innovative competencies are not competencies that are possessed by Indonesians.
Furthermore, based on a research-test by PPM Management and Lead Pro, our strategic partner from among 21,000 employees, talent of ideation, futuristic and strategic, which are the components to create the act of ingenuity, are not possessed by Indonesians either.
However, there are several efforts can be prepared by corporate to encourage the employees to be more creative and innovative:
(1) Create the environment
Sam Stern (Stern, 1997) identifies essential elements that provide an environment to unleash creativity at every level of organization, since most creative acts are, usually, unplanned and unexpected. To create this environment, management should:
(a) Give employees the freedom to fail. Encouraging employees to make mistake is part of the creative process, but management ensure that freedom will not justify the mean for failures
(b) Allow them to ask “silly” questions, especially during formal function. This is as a lead to the creative process itself
(c) Make awareness of creativity within the top management and employees to be a top priority
(d) Gain top management’s support. Creativity must be led from the top
(e) Let employees express their opinion without repercussion. Open to any suggestion, adjustment and critic, provided that these are for company’s benefits
(2) Creativity paradigm within the corporate
One of the biggest challenges the corporate is facing today is getting the employees to realize that they can be creative. It is not just the management that thinks only certain people are endowed with creativity, most people have been conditioned to think the only creative people are scientist, artists, writers and musicians.
Until recently, creativity was only existed at “Creative Department”, or at some back-office operation, whereas nowadays corporate realized that company’s survival depends on ongoing innovation and this action is involving whole part of the organization.
At the Clorox Company, a soap & detergent manufacturer, for example, a creativity initiative involves everyone in the department, including scientist, technicians, finance and accounting specialists and secretaries.
As a result of these concerted efforts, there are several new products in the pipeline, new marketing strategies are under development and department employees have created new processes that save time and millions of dollars.
To overcome this challenge, several efforts can be implemented :
(a) Learning Program
Give employees opportunity to learn about the creative process from in and out class program. By accomplishing the creative learning program, the employees’ mindset are turned to think that creativity can be carried out by almost any one.
(b) Sharing Session.
Invite distinguished speaker to boost creativity of the employees and to challenge the realities in the corporate
(c ) Recommend books to read, covering many actual stories of successes and perhaps, failures.
(3) Setting up the creativity-breaking events
The management gives opportunity for the employees to take a break from routine work by outing or outdoor events that led to refreshing and rewarding time. A senior executive of Nissan (USA), took his entire employees to attend a premiere show of movie during the day, and they returned to office with flood of ideas to design prototype vehicle they were working on deadlines.
Management and employees must also have the mindset regarding myths and truths of the creativity, such as :
(1) Most creative acts are usually unanticipated by management and come from where they are least expected
(2) Creativity is actually can also be managed. Once corporate realize how creativity occurs, they can take specific, practical actions that will dramatically improve their creative performance
(3) Using brainstorming session will not always create employees to become more creative. In practice, even brainstorming session has a poor track record for delivering useful creativity
These are quick reference tips for anyone who never taken competency assessment or talent test. If you are usually living and thinking ahead of your time, always negotiating the change, imagining and creating what did not exist before and being inclusive, integrative and collaborative, you are fortunate as a person who possess traits as innovative or creative persons (Buchen, 2007).
In conclusion, in today’s competitive environment, the strength of corporate is increasingly dependent upon product quality and rapid adaptation to change. To survive in this environment, corporate rely upon the creativity, ingenuity and problem-solving abilities of their employees.
To do so, corporate should provide employees with the environment, learning program and incentives, in order that the employees will be able to do innovation and rapid response for the change.
Jakarta, 21 August 2008
Octa Melia Jalal. Director of Executive Development and Head of PPM Center for Human Capital Development at PPM Management, Jakarta. She is also a consultant in human resources issues.