Our journey of discovering on this topic began almost two years ago when I wanted to try and assess the value of the creative leadership and creativity programmes we were delivering. The more I inquired the more it became apparent, answers were not easy or readily available.The major national research project “Is Australian management creative and innovative?” the Creative Leadership Forum completed in 2008 further complicated the issue when it revealed over 75% of managers said the creativity and innovation training they received was at best ineffectual, at worst a complete waste of time and money.Since 2008, I have had many conversations with senior leaders in organisations in which they were simply trying to define what innovation actually meant in the context of their organisations, before even starting to plan how to develop strategic thinking around the concept of creativity and innovation.
In the past decade, I have listened to many leaders across all sorts of industries and organisations dialogue about innovation but very rarely have I seen organisations actually embody and live the outcomes of these dialogues. Facilitated dialogues and workshops with the endorsement and often participation of company leaders introducing the strategy and tactics of innovation invariably leave participants highly enthused. Yet very often after a relative short period of time, organisations absorb this optimism and little changes.Leaders attest to the many difficulties associated with organisational innovation, not least of which are the political ramifications. Innovation is like a political movement, often polarising entrenched hierarchies, organisational elites and factions. Innovation favours ideators and implementers, those wanting to overthrow the status quo and get on with change, challenging anybody who stands in their way.How a leader handles this ebb and flow of unresolved organisational tension is crucial to the implementation of innovation.
Last week one of the world's truly great innovators passed away. Malcolm McLaren, the inventor of the punk movement. McLaren's life work was that of a Rennaisance man, an ideas man who changed popular culture both as an entreprenuer and as an artist. His journey of invention was often misunderstood by artists, academics and the industry in which he operated because he continually moved outside the norms to create new forms and new products that questioned the accepted practice of his peers. As a manager, he was not a traditional band manager. He interfered artistically. As an artist, he was held in deep suspicion by musicians and practicing artists alike because he was seen as an entrepreneur first, part of the profit making machine artists inherently mistrust. Even worse, he couldn't play a musical instrument using digital sampling technology to create his work way before it was the accepted norm.
If you contrast his first outing publicly as the manager of the Sex Pistols and the recognised founder of the punk movement; his mentoring of Adam Ant and Boy George; his subsequent breaking of world music into popular culture through Duck Rock, recorded and filmed in Soweto before the dawning of Apartheid in South Africa; his contemporising and popularising of opera through Puccini's Madame Butterfly and his final album Paris containing a beautiful and romantic duet with Catherine Deneuve - Paris, Paris - you see the emergence of the archetypical digital entrepreneur and the beginning of artistic and business models that are now entering 21st Century mainstream business thinking.
He paved the way for all those young "punk" creative garage based internet and software coders, hackers and would be entrepreneurs who broke rules because they could and found ways to make money out of doing that - think Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter. McLaren was like all great entrepreneurs, a racconteur who understood strategic thinking - what made McLaren stand out was his ability to recognise his strength as an ideator, to see "ideas" as an artform in itself and their manifestation being their successful implementation, artistically and commercially. Like all great innovators, he failed regularly yet always restlessly sought the next new idea, forever honing his craft - whatever you may label that!!.
A man of our times and one of the modern world's great creative and cultural leaders!
Here is a link to a feature on Malcolm McLaren made in 1984
Bruce Nussbaum, Managing Editor, Business Week USA published an article on December 31, 2008 provocatively entitled "Innovation is Dead" in which he suggested innovation"….was done in by CEOs, consultants, marketeers, advertisers and business journalists who degraded and devalued the idea by conflating it with change, technology, design, globalization, trendiness, and anything “new.” It was done in by an obsession with measurement, metrics and math and a demand for predictability in an unpredictable world. The concept was also done in, strangely enough, by a male-dominated economic leadership that rejected the extraordinary progress in “uncertainty planning and strategy” being done at key schools of design that could have given new life to “innovation. To them, “design” is something their wives do with curtains, not a methodology or philosophy to deal with life in constant BETA — life in 2010…"Constantly confused and used interchangeably with creativity, “innovation” is worse than dead. It has become meaningless.
Everyone thinks about creativity and how it is applied differently. Every single creative conversation is different. Every single explanation for how creativity and its outcome, innovation is correct. So how can we know and differentiate between which process is right for us, what works for us and doesn't?Research around creativity and the way we behave has been going on for over 150 years. Out of the generally discredited science of phrenology in the 18th century grew 19th century psychiatry and now neuroscience. The Journal for Creative Behaviour, an unheralded academic journal, has been turning out erudite and insightful research articles quarterly for over 60 years on creative thinking, creative processes and creativity generally.