Designing an environment for creativity (Part 1)

By Lucell Larawan

As a former business management mentor, I do get surprised if many blindly follow certain principles to run their organizations. These principles, however, are cults because they are based on values that have some inherent validity but are actually unhelpful dogmas that generate dysfunctional behaviors. At least those who are involved with organizations—as employees or managers—must be aware of them know how to find a better way.

The cult of productivity and busyness is an example. It makes you and me fill our calendars hoping that we achieve more. At first glance, this brings a positive outcome. But does this work for those who innovate?

Creativity in organizations has become the new normal. Firms that do not adapt and create better services and products will easily become out of business. Truth is: productivity and busyness cannot foster a creative environment. The culture of empowerment does.

With empowerment, I feel that I can implement my creative ideas without setting unnecessary appointments to my boss to consult about my initiatives. I do not worry about bosses who tell me what to do all the time. With empowerment, my boss has confidence on my ability and entrusts to me the job by giving me enough delegated authority and freedom to do tasks with more creativity and initiative. It means I will not worry about not getting immediate support if there is a need for an intent workshop with stakeholders in a design project.

Another cult that has existed among organizations: efficiency and cost-cutting. This is like cutting a tree the fastest way and with least time and monetary resources. This can be a good idea if you cut the right tree. I see cost-cutting all the time. Schools cut budgets unreasonably in such a way that they cannot use the air conditioner for an hour. The classrooms do not use white boards because it means cost (no pun intended). No meeting can be done in a room, for instance, because the there is no overhead projector—a cost-cutting strategy.

The idea of cost saving is closely related to the cult of competition and empire building among departments of an organization, which means building a budgeting process where departments compete for scarce resources and refuse to cooperate for the wider good. There are silos all around. No one cares to see how the whole system works.

Let us ponder the better way: the culture of effectiveness and value creation. Effectiveness means being able to produce a good outcome. This is like the online selling platform for Jeff Bezos of Amazon that brick and mortar traders did not see coming. This is similar to a Wifi booster already sold in the market—a product that solves the weak signals of our internet providers. These illustrations are not only about effective services; they also point out about value creation. To produce more value compared to competitors can only be done if it is emphasized more than the cults that I mentioned.

Takeaway: organizations do better with a culture that fosters creativity which includes a culture of empowerment and a culture of effectiveness and value creation.