By Dimis Michaelides
A new report from IBM
In my role of Master of Ceremonies at the Creative Problem Solving Institute held in Atlanta, Georgia in June 2011, I had the pleasure of introducing Susan Thomas, Senior Managing Consultant and Steve Gray, Senior Consultant from IBM. Susan and Steve offered a preview of the latest IBM report to which they themselves were contributors. The report which has now been published, begins with a question:
Why are some organizations consistently good at innovating and adapting while others seem to be blindsided by change?
The authors argue that innovative leaders will use the necessary tension between business trade-offs (such as local vs global, zero-sum vs expand the pie, systems thinking vs design thinking) to forge new ways ahead – “leaders who embrace the dynamic tension between creative disruption and operational efficiency can create new models of extraordinary value.” The path to organizational creativity calls for action at three levels:
Uncover – find the key skills, understand how the world works, seek new opportunities, make new connections.
Unlock – develop people’s creative potential through powerful learning that is relevant to real business challenges, promote small diverse teams to work on bold ideas, create inspirational role models, and build a vision powered by trust,
Unleash – grow and multiply the competencies and the ideas, expand and share information and expertise globally, build constituencies with common goals
As its title suggests, the study is based on a conviction that we strongly share: that organizational creativity can be cultivated by inspired leadership. It is an excellent follow-up to previous IBM reports (see below) and includes quotes from thinkers, experts and practitioners. Here are some strong and memorable excerpts from the main body of the report:
“Yesterday’s market-leading “best practices” can all too often turn into tomorrow’s recipe for disaster.”
“Creative leadership requires harnessing the dynamic tensions between the dualities that define today’s complex business environment – to drive toward both creative disruption and operational efficiency at the same time.”
“Bottom-up innovation is better harnessed through influence rather than power, a challenge to the more prevalent organizational mindset that views leadership through the lens of control. An organization that fails to fully embrace these modern dualities may miss the opportunity to generate a rich and critical source of creative energy and may, ultimately, risk irrelevance.”
“Creating a culture with a bias for action requires having rewards aligned with the taking of considered risks in an environment where failure is a necessary and mutually defining opposite of success.”
The report was authored by Barbara J. Lombardo and Daniel John Roddy. It can be read at http://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/en/gbe03418usen/GBE03418USEN.PDF
In a study by IBM in May 2008 (before the recession) the following characteristics of the enterprise of the future were highlighted: Innovative beyond customer imagination, hungry for change and disruptive by nature.
In 2010 the IBM survey of 1540 CEO’s on Complexity concluded that Creativity is the single most important leadership competency and called on CEOs to Embody creative leadership, Reinvent customer relationships and Build operational dexterity.
This article does not refer to IBM as in the International Brotherhood of Magicians, an association of which I am a member, but to the IBM that was once known as International Business Machines. IBM today has nearly 400,000 people on its payroll and has just celebrated its 100th birthday. IBM has successfully reinvented itself a few times over. IBM features consistently on all published lists of “most innovative” companies in the world and has deservedly earned the respect of creative people all over the world.