Companies’ executives are obsessed with innovation. In the journey of enterprises to lead in their industries (and for many, to survive), these organizations, especially large corporations, understand that startups and other tech companies might take their place. The change is so radical that’s incredible to observe the efforts companies put into becoming a more creative and innovative organization. Think about the banking industry. Some financial institutions exist for 80 years, 100, or even longer. During this time, they managed to gain 100, 200, or even 300 million customers. Now think about Facebook. In 12 years, since its launch, Facebook has acquired almost 2 billion users! What will happen when Facebook steps into the financial industry? When asking this question, you realize that without innovation the risks for the financial industries are a matter of life or death.
Naturally, executives worry about their future; this future, of course, relates in part to their ability to innovate and lead innovation inside their organizations. To achieve this goal, companies invest in innovation: they establish dedicated rooms, start innovation departments, hire innovation consultancies and push their employees to be innovative. Yet, the success rate is low (10%-30% according to Harvard Business School research).
The reasons are varied. However, I would say it is, in part, due to the lack of preparation.
Let me elaborate on what I mean.
For the last 200 years or so, since the industrial revolution we were trained to think with our left brain: the analytical, practical, and linear but in our times, the role of the right brain thinking: the imaginative, emotional, and holistic is required, just like the left brain. It means we need to change our perception about right-brain thinkers because this change is crucial: the perception that led to success in the past — the left-brain thinking is the driver, and the right-brain is the passenger — won’t work in the future. They become equally important. Two ways of thinking need to share the driving seats.
Why does it matter? Because in the business world we will find more left-brain thinkers while the innovation requires the right-brain thinker as well. When I started The Artian I was amazed by the various skills the business world is lacking to be innovative and creative, yet it can learn from the arts — frequently, the right brain thinkers. Skills that relevant in the innovation process. Skills such as observation, questioning, ideating, and associating. Skills that are generally speaking not being taught in the regular education systems and developed in the job environment. Think about ideation or observation. Observation is an essential skill that needs to be developed. While working on innovation projects we are required to “observe the client, her environment, and the way she behaves.” Yet, we are being taught how to read, write, speak, and even how to behave socially; nobody teaches us how to observe, and the culture doesn’t encourage us to take the time and observe.
Now think about art. Art is a visual language, and as such, it is based on observations; you need to listen with your eyes and then register what you see, understand what you see and how what you see is related. So you become a problem solver just by viewing art.
Why does it matter? Because companies require their employees to be creative and innovative while most probably they don’t hold the necessary skills such as observation to become one.
Think about it that way. If you will provide me with the right equipment, technology, people, and resources required to climb mountain Everest, can I do it? Certainly not. Why? Because I’m not physically fit, I’m not prepared mentally or emotionally. If you are a manager or a founder that requires your employees to climb the mountain of innovation without being fit mentally and physically — would you be surprised if they fail? More importantly, is it their fault?
Often you hear managers complaining about their people and their abilities to innovate even though the managers provided all the required resources. My advice? Before questioning your employees’ abilities to innovate, ask yourself, what do you do to help them be more innovative and creative? Do you train them with the core and necessary skills required in innovation before providing them with all the resources to innovate?
If the answer is no, try to think how you will.