What level of risk will you tolerate to ensure creativity and innovation in your organization? Do you know? Do your employees know? How are your leadership activities influencing those levels of risk and creativity?


The message of “all failure is bad” is one that we are familiar with from both our school and work experiences. Organizations with this direct or indirect message as part of their work culture will struggle to challenge issues, problem solve and respond to changes in their business communities.


Ken Robinson (@sirkenrobinson) defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” One of the first steps includes having the ability to spot the divergent thinkers within your organization. We all have people on our teams who respond to challenges by thinking of more than one possible solution, pathway or strategy. The ability of an organization to remain agile and responsive can depend on its leader’s ability to find and support those divergent thinkers within.


As a leader, you need to look for people within your organization who:


  • Enjoy discussions around big picture ideas or concepts.


  • Spend more time in meetings asking questions than sharing opinions.


  • Gravitate towards and excel at assignments and tasks that are open-ended.


Once you have the people in place and have identified them, you need a workplace environment that will support and foster this type of work. In Sparking Student Creativity, Patti Drapeau (@ptdrapeau) talked about aspects of the work or learning environment that maximize opportunities for people to be creative. These included establishing a work environment that values different types of creativity, values teamwork, and that is an emotionally safe and caring environment. This last one is likely the most crucial. In the educational context we have seen that teachers need to feel safe in order to take risks and explore new instructional territory. The most effective way to foster this bravery is to build effective teaching teams or cohorts around a certain subject or grade level.


In Ed Catmull’s book “Creativity Inc.,” the co-founder of Pixar says, “In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk.” If they are avoiding risk, they are also avoiding potential solutions, change and innovation. People, particularly millennials and 21st century learners, want to create and work in environments that seem to be open and have “space” for original ideas and the opportunity to pursue them and make a difference. Whether the difference is to us, each other, the community at large, or the bottom line, people will gravitate towards and remain in work environments where they feel they are contributing in a positive way to the context around them.


So now that you have the creative brain trust of your organization identified and working in a supportive, idea-rich environment, what is next?


Choosing Your Fork – The Back Half of Leading Creativity … coming soon!